Tendency to characterize situation at border as just a minor issue and a matter of perspective is “inadvisable”: Vikram Misri

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India’s Ambassador to China Vikram Misri has said that tendency to sweep the situation at border under the carpet and characterize it as just a minor issue and a matter of perspective is “inadvisable” as it can only take the two countries further away from a sustained solution to present difficulties and deeper into an unfulfilling stalemate. The top Indian envoy said, it would be tantamount to running away from the problem and in a direction opposite to that where the promise of our closer development partnership lies. Ambassador Misri was speaking at an online event between Indian thinktank – Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) and Chinese thinktank – Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs (CPIFA) which was also addressed by Chinese Ambassador to India, Sun Weidong, among others.

Growth in India-China relations result of ‘conscious policy choices’

Recalling the spectacular growth in India-China relationship between 1988 and 2019, he said it was a result of conscious policy choices that nurtured an environment for its growth and was not an autonomous one. He said the fundamental premise of the closer developmental partnership between India and China have been placed under considerable strain by the serious incidents and the resultant violation of peace and tranquility at the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh in April 2020 and thereafter. Mr. Misri said both India and China agree that they should stick to the consensus between the top leaders of the two countries. However, he pointed out that equally significant consensus has been reached between the two leaders in the past as well, on the importance of maintaining peace and tranquility, and it is important to stick to that consensus as well. He further said that the impact on public opinion has been particularly strong due to the violation of peace and tranquility at the LAC.

However, he emphasized the importance of the two sides having maintained a sustained diplomatic and military dialogue in attempting to resolve issues which thus far have helped in achieving substantial disengagement of the two forces and the need to achieve complete disengagement in all friction areas to rebuild the foundation of the relationship that was damaged through last year’s actions in Eastern Ladakh. India and China have completed 11 rounds of senior military commanders talks and several rounds of diplomatic talks but could not achieve complete disengagement at all the friction points at LAC.

Plurilateral initiatives result of stress on multilateral structures

Mr. Misri said, to cope effectively with the challenges of the evolving international scene, it is clear that only statements in favor of multilateralism will not be sufficient. He reminded that multilateral structures are presently under some stress and have therefore created space for a number of plurilateral initiatives. He said, it is important to afford space to them rather than prejudge them. This was seen as a response to China’s apprehensions towards India’s recent geo-political moves in recent times, particularly w.r.t. ‘Indo-Pacific’.
*Words need to be backed up by actions in every domain – multilateral, plurilateral or bilateral

He opined that in a post-pandemic world of altered equations, ‘multipolarity’ is probably more important than ever, both in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. In a multipolar world, no country can set the agenda by itself without prior agreement and consultation, and then expect everyone else to come on board. No single country can expect a discussion to focus only on issues of its own interest while ignoring those raised or reflected by others. And no country should imagine that it has sole control over the narrative about a relationship or its actual course, he said. The sooner this is understood, the sooner we can move towards a real and reformed multilateralism. He also reminded that, in every domain – multilateral, plurilateral or bilateral, words need to be backed up by actions which are seen as aimed at China which has been saying to put the border issue in perspective but has been effectively doing very little to achieve complete disengagement at the LAC.

The event which was the 7th ICWA-CPIFA Dialogue was organized virtually on 15th April where scholars from both sides discussed working together for a development agenda of mutual interest and jointly coping with the challenges of the changing international structure in the post-pandemic era. Within a week, at another event organized at the Consulate General of India, Guangzhou on 19th April, Mr. Misri interacted with Chinese scholars from various think-tanks and universities and re-emphasized that maintenance of peace and tranquility in border areas is essential basis for the development of bilateral relationship.

China will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC) this year and India the 75th anniversary of its independence next year. As both the countries have embarked along their respective paths of development to seek prosperity for their citizens, restoring peace and tranquility on the borders will enable both the countries to deliver concrete benefits to their people and aid their material progress and development. This is also highlighted in China’s 14th Five Year Plan and the Long-Term Vision for 2035 crafted under President Xi Jinping’s leadership and the driving force behind Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. Sincerity and resolve from both sides in achieving these common goals are needed. Both India and China are well-situated in this dynamic world because of their respective capabilities, capacities, and traditions of innovation. Both should focus on the complementarities to confront contemporary challenges.