New Delhi: The Galwan border clash of last year has taken India-China relations “in a completely different direction”, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has said, adding that the challenge to manage the relationship with Beijing now “ranks very, very high” for New Delhi.
He said China had no “good reason” to deploy the military in large numbers at the Ladakh border in a “very operational mode”, a development which started in May last year and led to heightened tensions between the two big neighbours.
Since 1975, when there was a “relatively small clash”, India and China had no fatalities on the border, Jaishankar said during an interactive session organised virtually at the Australian National University’s JG Crawford Oration 2021 on the topic ‘Why Quad Matters’ on Monday.
“And yet what we saw last year was a complete departure”, he said referring to the huge Chinese military build-up on the Line of Actual Control in the Eastern Ladakh sector and the clash between troops of the two countries on June 15 in Galwan area.
“There was a very large Chinese military presence in a very operational mode which was brought to the border, without frankly a good reason; and when we countered that, it led to a very serious clash last June, in which a lot of lives were lost. And it has taken the relationship in a completely different direction,” he said.
“Right now certainly for me in India I would say the challenge of how to manage my relationship with China ranks very, very high,” adding that “it is in part because there has been a very sharp departure from the norm”.
He said that from 1988 when then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi went to China, India built its relationship with China “predicated on the fact that the border would be peaceful and tranquil”, which was done by a series of agreements “which built confidence, which said don’t bring your military to the border, and you had a protocol of what happens when troops meet each other”.
He was sharing with the audience on where India stands with China, saying it would give “an insight into the kind of problems that the region is facing”.
Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in a fierce fight with intruding Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh on June 15 last year. (UNI)