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China moved military forces in disregard of agreements: Jaishankar on border row in eastern Ladakh

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New Delhi: India and China are rising and the two countries, in the process, are changing the world order, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Monday. Jaishankar, citing talks between leadership of the two countries in Mamallapuram and Wuhan, said India tried to maintain an “equilibrium” in the ties through diplomacy, but the relations took a different turn following China’s military build-up along the Line of Actual Control in 2020 in violation of laid down norms.

The external affairs minister, speaking at a media summit organised by the TV9 Network, described the rise of India and China as “significant” in the global geopolitical scenario.

“If you were to list three or four really big things which have changed in the last 20-25 years, I think most people would agree it would be the rise of China and the rise of India,” he said, replying to a question.

“You can say China started it much earlier because our own politics here delayed the era of reform. That’s okay. What’s done is done. But there is no question, both countries are rising and for world politics, this poses a very interesting problem,” he said.

“The problem is this: both are changing the world order by their rise. So each one has an impact vis-a-vis the world. But they also happened to be neighbours. So their relationship is also changing while it is changing vis-a-vis the rest of the world,” Jaishankar added.

The external affairs minister argued that the situation, therefore, is making it “very complicated to create an equilibrium”. They were part of “equilibrium maintenance exercise”, Jaishankar said when specifically asked about the informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Chinese city of Wuhan in 2018 and Mamallapuram in 2019. “We tried to maintain that equilibrium naturally — first through diplomacy. So what you saw in Wuhan and Mamallapuram, etc was that equilibrium maintenance exercise,” he said. “But what happened in 2020 was, China for whatever reason chose to move military forces in disregard of agreements. That called for a different response for the equilibrium,” he said.

“The logical thing for us to do, which is what we did, was we moved our forces and in a very big way. So from 2020, you have an equilibrium, one part of which is the military posture in the border areas, one part of it today obviously is the political relationship impacted by this border situation,” he said.

“One part of it is also the economic measures that we have taken,” he added.

Jaishankar said the Modi government believes that interests of the country’s working class, small enterprises and small industries must be protected against “unfair competition”.

“Our effort today is to build our deep strengths. We have to build our digital capabilities, our telecom, our manufacturing, our pharma industry, our health self-sufficiency, our defence industry, our ability to deploy on the border which you can only do if you build infrastructure,” he said.

Jaishankar suggested that India’s annual average expenditure on the border with China was about Rs 3,500 crore till 2014.

Today, it is almost Rs 15,000 crore, he said.

There was a neglect of the border infrastructure, he said, adding “you cannot defend the border if you do not build infrastructure there”.

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