WITH HIS Chinese counterpart watching via a video link, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said Tuesday that the “leading voices of the world must be exemplars in every way” and that the “challenge today is not just one of concepts and norms, but equally of their practice”.
Jaishankar was speaking at the Russia-India-China (RIC) foreign ministers’ virtual meeting, which was chaired by Russia’s Sergey Lavrov who said the three countries were “united by our rejection of unilateral methods in international relations, especially when these methods are applied by force”.
This was Jaishankar’s first face-to-face interaction with China’s Foreign Minister Wangi Yi after the Galwan Valley incident in which 20 Indian Army personnel were killed in violent clashes with Chinese troops on June 15.
“This special meeting reiterates our belief in the time-tested principles of international relations. But the challenge today is not just one of concepts and norms, but equally of their practice. The leading voices of the world must be exemplars in every way. Respecting international law, recognising the legitimate interests of partners, supporting multilateralism and promoting common good are the only ways of building a durable world order,” Jaishankar said.
The statements are being seen as a thinly veiled reference to China which, India maintains, has violated all bilateral agreements since 1993 with the violent clashes last week.
According to a Chinese official statement, Wang said they should “properly handle the sensitive factors in bilateral relations and maintain the overall situation of mutual relations”. He also stressed that China, Russia and India are big countries that insist on strategic autonomy.
“Starting from the common interests of promoting the development of the three countries and safeguarding the world’s peaceful development, we should correctly treat and properly handle the sensitive factors in bilateral relations and maintain the overall situation of mutual relations,” the statement quoted Wang as saying.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov played down the recent spike in tensions, saying it’s normal to have problems with neighbours. “I don’t think they need any outside help,” he said after the meeting.
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Lavrov said that India and China “showed their commitment to a peaceful resolution after the incident”. “They started meetings at the level of defence officers, foreign ministries, and neither of the two sides made any statement that any of them would proceed on a non-diplomatic solution. I see no reason that Russia or anyone else would be imposing their services on India and China in order to solve their own problems,” he said.
Welcoming the meeting to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the conclusion of WW-II, and the foundation of the UN, Jaishankar recalled that the victory over Nazism and Fascism was achieved through sacrifices across many theatres by many countries.
“India made a significant contribution, with 2.3 million of its citizens under arms and 14 million more participating in war production. Indian blood was shed at the battlefields of the world, from Tobruk, El Alamein and Montecassino, to Singapore, Kohima and Borneo,” he said.
“We helped keep key supply lines open to both your countries, one through the Persian corridor and the other over the Himalayan hump. If Indian personnel were conferred the Order of the Red Star, the medical mission led by Dr Kotnis was a legend in China,” he said.
“When the victors met to fashion the ensuing global order, the political circumstances of that era did not give India due recognition. This historical injustice has stood uncorrected for the last 75 years, even as the world has changed. Therefore, on this momentous occasion, it is important for the world to realise both the contribution that India made and the need to rectify the past,” he said.
“But beyond history, international affairs must also come to terms with contemporary reality. The United Nations began with 50 members; today it has 193. Surely, its decision making cannot continue to be in denial of this fact. We, the RIC countries, have been active participants in shaping the global agenda. It is India’s hope that we will also now converge on the value of reformed multilateralism,” he said.
Wang also urged the three sides to “hold high” the banner of multilateralism, uphold the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and ensure the authority and effectiveness of the UN.
“They should strengthen communication and coordination within the framework of the UN, carry out pragmatic and effective cooperation, and promote the UN to play its due role in safeguarding world peace and promoting common development, especially in resolving global challenges,” the Chinese Foreign Minister said.
Wang called on the three countries to “firmly defend” the fruits of the WW-II victory. “They should resolutely oppose any act of reversing the wheel of history, firmly resist hegemonism and power politics, and resolutely promote the democratisation and legalisation of international relations,” he said.
Lavrov flagged “international terrorism” as a “threat”, and said that efforts to combat it continue with a degree of success although it is clear that this threat is far from being eliminated. “I would like to use this opportunity to reaffirm our support to the Indian initiative on adopting a Comprehensive Convention on Combating Terrorism. Other cross-border threats that make terrorism stronger, such as drug trafficking and other forms of cross-border crime, also remain unresolved,” he said.