LONDON: India remains firm and resolute in ensuring that its sovereignty and territorial integrity is protected and will not keel over when it comes to border issues, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said in London on Wednesday.
He said that following a build-up of troops, multiple transgressions and attempts to unilaterally change facts on the ground by China, there have been several levels of talks and a fair amount of communication to ensure that the matter can be resolved through negotiation and diplomacy.
“It does not help any country to go into aggression. We are not going to be pushed over or keel over and fall backwards. We are not a pushover,” he told reporters, when asked for an update on the border situation on the final day of his tour of Europe.
“But at the same time, we are not jingoistic. We are not ready to go to war when you can settle issues through negotiation and diplomacy. We are reasonable but also firm and resolute in ensuring that our sovereignty and territorial integrity is maintained and protected,” he said, in reference to India’s stance over the Chinese aggression on its border earlier this year.
Laying out some facts from India’s point of view, the Foreign Secretary pointed out that China is in illegal possession of 38,000 sq km of Indian territory, in addition to which 5,000 sq km was illegally ceded by Pakistan to China of Indian territory in Jammu and Kashmir.
“But in recent issues, we have held our own. So, if there are references to territory being lost, that is not true,” he said.
Reflecting on a “sensitive time” in the India-China relationship as another round of key negotiations are in the offing, he stressed that it would not serve anyone’s interest to be very vocal on issues despite a strong sense of public sentiment and revulsion at the “assertive attitude” of a “fairly non-transparent” Chinese setup, not just on India’s border but elsewhere in the South China Sea, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Australia and within Hong Kong.
“The fact that we have faced a huge crisis on our borders, the fact that it has been unilateral, the fact that it has created public perceptions in India… We will have to take cognisance of these developments,” he said.
In the meantime, both sides have agreed on certain steps that are intended to avert so-called “misunderstandings”, which include both sides not crossing the Line of Actual Control (LAC), no night patrols, no untoward activities and a number of other steps at the military level.
“At the level of the leaders, there is a clear consensus that both sides should work to sincerely resolve the issues in the border areas. We do believe that on our side we would make the necessary efforts but remain firm and resolute when it comes to ensuring the preservation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity. We will not compromise on that essential aspect of our sovereignty,” he said.
In reference to the Quad, or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue which involves the US, Japan, Australia and India, Shringla sought to highlight the wider nature of the forum beyond just security and defence issues to encompass the COVID-19 pandemic related healthcare response and to build resilient secure supply chains.
“We do believe we have the foundations for very strong relationships with our own neighbours; we don’t need to see it from the prism of China. As a country, we have always maintained a level of strategic autonomy and have varying and differing circles of interactions,” he noted.
Shringla, who is on a seven-day trip to Europe to review bilateral relations and discuss matters of mutual interest with key European nations, earlier told a German news channel India will not compromise on its territorial integrity.
The evolving situation in the Indo-Pacific region in the wake of China’s increasing military muscle-flexing has become a major talking point among leading global powers.
China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Beijing has also made substantial progress in militarising its man-made islands in the past few years.
Beijing claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea. But Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counterclaims. In the East China Sea, China has territorial disputes with Japan.
The Quad works to bolster the capacities and the abilities of the countries in the Indo Pacific within a manner that’s both constructive and cooperative, Shringla said.