Updated: March 8, 2021 7:17:39 am
As New Delhi prepares to participate in the first ever meeting of the leaders of the Quadrilateral grouping likely on March 12, Beijing Sunday said that China and India should stop “undercutting” each other, shed mutual “suspicion” and create “enabling conditions” by expanding bilateral cooperation to resolve the border issue.
Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi made these remarks at his annual press conference in Beijing —seen as a signal to New Delhi as it plans to join the Quad meeting this week between Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Joe Biden, Japan PM Yoshihide Suga and Australian PM Scott Morrison.
Wang was speaking on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People’s Congress, China’s Parliament.
Beijing views the Quad with suspicion. Three years ago, Wang had dismissed its revival as a “headline-grabbing” idea that, like “foam on the sea”, would get attention but “soon dissipate”. He called for the “the Dragon and Elephant to not fight but dance”.
Since then, quite some water has flowed under the bilateral bridge – the protracted standoff along the LAC, a clash in Galwan and the first de-escalation last month. Sunday’s remarks also come after Wang and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had a 75-minute phone conversation February 26, when they agreed to establish a hotline — “for timely communication and exchange of views”.
Wang Sunday said the boundary dispute was “an issue left from history,” and “not the whole story of the China-India relationship” and that both countries were friends and partners who should shed mutual suspicion. This is a reiteration of Beijing’s approach in the wake of the ongoing border standoff.
After the Wang-Jaishankar call, the statement from China had underlined that the boundary situation should not be placed at the front and centre of the relationship but at a “proper place” in overall ties — the indication was that the two sides should return to business as usual even as they deal with the border issue.
India has maintained there must be an incremental approach toward a resolution and disengagement, followed by de-escalation, will lead to peace along the LAC and, eventually, normalisation of ties.
Answering a question on how Beijing viewed the relationship with India, Wang said:
“It is important the two sides manage disputes properly and at the same time expand and enhance cooperation to create enabling conditions for the settlement of the issue.”
Wang, also a State Councillor, did not refer to the disengagement. His statements were tweeted by Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong.
Wang said the world expects both China and India to safeguard the common interests of developing countries and advance multipolarity in the world. The similar national conditions of the two countries, he said, mean that they share the same or similar positions on many major issues.
“Therefore,” Wang stressed, “China and India are each other’s friends and partners, not threats or rivals…The two sides need to help each other to succeed instead of undercutting each other. We should intensify cooperation instead of harbouring suspicion at each other.”
Without directly mentioning the Ladakh standoff, Wang said, “the right and wrongs at what happened at the border area last year are clear, so are the stakes involved.”
“We are committed to settling the boundary dispute through dialogue and consultation. At the same time we are resolved to safeguarding our sovereign rights,” he said.
Wang added that the onus was on both sides to solidify the existing consensus, strengthen dialogue and communication and improve the various management mechanisms to jointly safeguard peace in the border areas.
On Friday, India’s Ambassador to China Vikram Misri met Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui and called for completing the disengagement from all areas in eastern Ladakh.
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