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Indo-China differences cannot become disputes: foreign secretary

LiveMint logoLiveMint 11-07-2017 Mayank Aggarwal mayank.a@livemint.com

New Delhi: The consensus that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived at last month that India and China must not allow differences to become disputes underlines the strategic maturity with which the two countries must continue to approach each other, said foreign secretary S. Jaishankar on Tuesday.

Jaishankar was speaking on the topic “India, Asean and changing geopolitics” at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore to mark 25 years of the India-Singapore partnership. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is a multilateral group.

The foreign secretary said differences on issues like terrorism, nuclear energy access and connectivity initiatives have acquired some prominence in India-China relations but the ties today are multi-faceted.

In June 2017, Modi and Xi had met at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Astana, Kazakhstan.

The foreign secretary’s remarks come even as the India-China face-off continues at the Dokalam plateau in Bhutan for over several weeks. Dokalam—known as Doka La in India—is at the tri-junction between India, China and Bhutan.

“... Few would dispute that the evolving India-China relationship has a direct implication for Asean, for the larger Asia-Pacific, and perhaps even globally. We are all aware by now of the complexity inherent in the rise of two major powers near simultaneously, that too in close proximity. That the powers in question are civilizational ones, with positive far history and difficult near history, adds to the challenge,” said Jaishankar, who was India’s ambassador to the US, China and Singapore prior to becoming foreign secretary.

He stressed that “India-China relationship by now has acquired so many dimensions and so much substance that reducing it to black and white argumentation cannot be a serious proposition”.

“It is not only that India and China have stakes in each other; the world and especially Asean has a vested interest in this matter. This is not to suggest that old problems have been all addressed or that new issues will not arise,” he added.

The foreign secretary highlighted that India has an alarming trade deficit because of obstacles to market access in China.

“Negotiations on the long-standing boundary dispute also still continue. Differences on issues like terrorism, nuclear energy access and connectivity initiatives have also acquired some prominence. But the fact is that today, India-China relations are really multi-faceted,” he pointed out.

Jaishankar also drew attention to the fact that, last month, when Modi and Xi met in Astana, they reached consensus on two key points, “that at a time of global uncertainty, India-China relations are a factor of stability, and in their relationship, India and China must not allow differences to become disputes”.

“This consensus underlines the strategic maturity with which the two countries must continue to approach each other,” Jaishankar added.

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