Calling the ongoing military standoff with China in eastern Ladakh a result of Beijing not following the existing agreements, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Saturday said that the “real danger” is that the “goodwill, which was so carefully developed, will dissipate” with this.
He said he would not venture to predict a possible resolution, but that India will rise to the occasion to meet the national security challenge.
Speaking at an event organised by business association FICCI, Jaishankar said it is hard to to predict when it comes to national security issues, “so I won’t get into the prediction zone, whether is going to be easy or not and what would be the timelines and so on”. But, he said, “the events this year have raised some very basic concerns. They have happened because the other party did not abide by agreements that we have had with them about respecting and observing the Line of Actual Control and not bringing forces to the Line of Actual Control”.
He compared it to “dealing with somebody who has violated the terms of a contract… and in a very substantial way”. The minister said, “I also believe what has happened is not actually in the interest of China, because it has significantly impacted public sentiment.”
Jaishankar said that through his career he has witnessed the evolution of how China has been viewed by Indians. “A lot of work had gone into the relationship on both sides. I don’t believe the events of this year have helped at all. I think the real danger is that the goodwill which was so carefully developed will dissipate. But I also would (say) that we are being tested. I have confidence that we will rise to the occasion (and) meet that national security challenge. But beyond that, at this time, I would really, frankly keep my own counsel.”
Talking about the US elections and what a Joe Biden administration could mean for India, Jaishankar said they are “quite unique” because “what happens in America has an impact on all of us”.
He said there are debates in the US now which were not there earlier, and one of the “interesting debates is whether actually this America at this time should actually have an industrial policy”, as “the free enterprise system in America is quite allergic to the idea of an industrial policy”.
“The other is technology,” he said. “The role of big tech – there is an international debate about it, but there is a very vigorous American debate, that how big should big tech be allowed to become…”
On his takeaway from the Biden administration coming to office, Jaishankar said, “I would say vis-à-vis the world, quite apart from the security and political influence issues, one big question for them is how do they keep America competitive. The other big question is how do they deal with the climate change challenge, which many of them have very passionate belief in.”
“Where we would stand vis-à-vis America priorities”, Jaishankar said, is what will make the difference. “It would be natural for the US to look at the world and evaluate countries… Where does this country or these sets of players fit into my game-plan? And my sense is today, on key aspects of the relationship, certainly when it comes to security and defence, when it comes to economic issues especially competitiveness, I think India can make a very big difference….
He said, “Today, the relationship is in a such a different level that the only place for it to go, in my view, is up.”
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