As the stand-off with China stretched to nearly its sixth month, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar Saturday said any attempt to change the status quo at the Line of Actual Control would be unacceptable and that Sino-India ties cannot be “immune to changes in the assumption that underpinned it”.
Delivering the annual Sardar Patel Memorial Lecture organised by All India Radio, Jaishankar stated that ties with China were stable for three decades as the two nations addressed inherited challenges and new circumstances and the “peace and tranquillity in the border areas provided the basis for expanded cooperation in other domains. But as the pandemic unfolded, the relationship has come under severe stress”.
“To restore normalcy, agreements between the two countries must be respected scrupulously in their entirety. Where the Line of Actual Control is concerned, any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo is unacceptable. The relationship cannot be immune to changes in the assumptions that underpinned it. Large civilizational states re-emerging in close proximity will not have naturally easy ties,” he said.
During the lecture titled “India and the post-Covid world”, Jaishankar drew parallels between the challenges facing the country today and the uncertainties it faced just after Independence in the aftermath of Partition—and how Sardar Patel had handled them.
The Minister touched upon multiple aspects of India’s outlook on national security, foreign policy and the global order after the impact of the pandemic.
On security, Jaishankar said advocating sweeping solutions without laying a firm groundwork may make for “dramatic politics”, but cannot be a substitute for serious policy. On the contrary, he said, “our experience in the last few years in expediting the creation of border infrastructure in the north shows how much difference sharper focus and better implementation can make”.
On foreign policy, the Minister said India, while “engaging with the different poles”, will continue to give the “utmost attention to its immediate neighbourhood”.
“In a post-Covid 19 world, India will approach the world in a more proactive way in the aftermath of the pandemic… some of that will be driven by a global vision of its interests that it has steadily developed over the years,” he said.
Speaking on the global economy, the Foreign Minister said it was apparent that the prevailing international system was under great stress even before the pandemic, citing “disenchantment” with a globalised system that “created unequal gains within societies and among them” as one of the major factors.
“The economic interests of a few prevailed at the expense of the livelihood of many. The rationale of collective global advancement gradually lost credibility, resulting in class wars in the developed world which contributed to growing political insecurity in many cases,” he said. “The Covid-19 pandemic could well be the last straw on the back of a fraying global consensus.”
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