Asserting that war cannot resolve anything, India on Thursday, expressed confidence that a mutually- acceptable solution would be found through talks to the Doklam border stand-off even as it described the Chinese action as a “matter of concern”. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, while speaking on the issue in the Rajya Sabha, said India is engaged with China on the issue and advocated patience.
She said India is engaged with China to resolve differences, not only on the stand-off at Doklam but all matters like border dispute, Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the blocking of UN sanctions against Jaish-e-Mohammad terror outfit chief Masood Azhar.
She was replying to a discussion on “India’s foreign policy and engagement with strategic partners” during which members voiced concern over the stand-off and raised questions over India’s policy. “Our relations with China have recently come under renewed focus due to developments in the Doklam area in the Sikkim sector close to the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction boundary.
“Our concerns emanate from Chinese action on the ground which have implications for the determination of the tri- junction boundary point between India, China and Bhutan and the alignment of India-China boundary in the Sikkim sector,” Swaraj said.
She said the “Chinese action in the Doklam area is .. of concern” and read out a statement giving details and explaining India’s position on the stand-off which has been going on for over a month.
“Patience and control on comments are key to resolving problems. We are maintaining patience and controlling comments,” she said. “War is not a solution to anything. Even after war, there has to be a dialogue. So, have dialogue without a war… Patience, control on comments and diplomacy can resolve problems,” the minister said.
She said if patience is lost, there can be provocation on the other side. “We will keep patience to resolve the issue,” Swaraj said, adding “We will keep engaging with China to resolve the dispute.”
In response to questions, she said military readiness is always there as the military is meant to fight wars. “But war cannot resolve problems. So wisdom is to resolve diplomatically,” the external affairs minister asserted.
Expressing confidence that the issue can be resolved through bilateral talks, Swaraj said, “India always believes that peace and tranquility in the India-China border is an important pre-requisite for smooth development of our bilateral relations.”
She said the Chinese side also, in their recent document published on the website of their Foreign Ministry, had expressed commitment to maintaining peace and tranquility in the India-China border areas.
“We will continue to engage with the Chinese side through diplomatic channels to find a mutually acceptable solution on the basis of the Astana Consensus between our leaders,” she said adding that India would continue to maintain close consultation and coordination with Bhutan government.
Giving details of the issue, she said both the aspects of tri-junction points and India-China boundary alignment in the Sikkim sector had been earlier addressed in a written common understanding reached between the Special Representatives of India and China on the boundary question in December 2012.
“Point 13 of the common understanding states that ‘The tri-junction boundary points between India, China and third countries will be finalized in consultation with the concerned countries’, she said, adding that since 2012, the two countries have not held any discussion on the tri-junction.
“With regard to the boundary in the Sikkim sector, there are still steps to be covered before the boundary is finalized.
“This understanding has been reflected in the Common Understanding of December 2012 in point number 12 which states that ‘There is mutual agreement on the basis of the alignment of the India China boundary in the Sikkim sector as provided by the convention between China and Great Britain relating to Tibet and Sikkim signed in 1890’,” Swaraj said.
In a meeting of the Special Representatives, the Chinese side has made the proposal for finalizing the boundary in Sikkim sector terming it as an early harvest of the SR process “thus clearly confirming that the boundary in the Sikkim sector is not yet finalized,” she said. “Otherwise, they would not have used this term “early harvest” as we say “low hanging fruit”, Swaraj added.
She also said that the Chinese side has selectively quoted parts of former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s letter of 22nd March, 1959 pertaining to the India-China boundary in the Sikkim sector.
“A full and accurate account of that letter would have also brought out Prime Minister Nehru’s assertion that was clearly based on the boundary alignment as shown in our Indian published maps,” she said.
“With regard to the boundary in the Sikkim sector there are still steps to be covered before the boundary is finalized,” Swaraj said.
At the same time, Swaraj lashed out at the Congress and its leadership for meeting Chinese Ambassador over the border stand-off. She said the Congress leadership had rushed to get the Chinese perspective instead of first seeking details from the own government.
“You (Congress) should have first sought details from the governnment and then confronted the Chinese envoy,” she said. Swaraj then said Jawaharlal Nehru, during the 1962 war, had convened sitting of Parliament after Atal Bihari Vajpayee wrote to him regarding this.
She said she had called all parties in phases for two days to explain the entire Doklam issue and the Opposition had left after being fully convinced. She also slammed the Congress for questioning why India had boycotted an international conference called by China over ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR).
“Do you know through where the OBOR passes? And you are asking these questions? It is a matter of national sentiment (for India). You are the main Opposition party, You should speak with responsibility,” she said, referring to the project which China proposes to build through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. At this, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the remarks made by his party colleague Rajeev Shukla regarding OBOR were in his “individual” capacity.
Swaraj then took a dig at the Congress, asking since when the party had become so democratic that each member speaks in own voice. Earlier, Congress leader Anand Sharma accused the government of mishandling foreign relations, particularly in the context of tensions with China.
Referring to the border stand-off with China, he said the neigbouring country is being “unusually aggressive” and the “doors of diplomacy seem to be closing”. “When it comes to country’s national interests, we stand as one and there is no division. It is clear…Diplomacy must be given a chance. We believe in making all possible diplomatic channels to de-escalate the situation on borders,” he said.
“De-escalation does not mean retreat. It is safeguarding India’s interest,” he said. Targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sharma said he had “not uttered a word” on what he has talked with Chinese President Xi Jingping during their meetings in Astana (Kazakhstan) and Hamburg (Germany).
“It is his (PM’s) duty to tell us. He cannot remain silent on matters of India’s sensitive interests,” he said Sharma also noted that National Security Adviser Ajit Doval had visited China recently and wondered whether after that “a window has opened that this stand-off would be resolved.” He also said that India should avoid making boastful claims of isolating Pakistan.
The Congress leader said it was a matter of concern that China has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan. He said managing of the periphery comes first and that is of critical importance, saying the rest comes later.
“Unless we manage our neighbours correctly, it would be difficult or rather impossible to play a major role globally,” he said, adding, “What is your roadmap? There is no stability in your policy. It keeps changing. First you say we would talk and then stop talks.” The Congress leader said India had succeeded in de- hyphenating India from Pakistan. “The real concern is that the hyphenation is back,” he said.
“We have concern because China’s profile in Pakistan is increasing and Pakistan is getting emboldened of this support for China and that is our concern,” he said.
Talking about the surgical strikes, he said, “even a military victory must not be boasted upon.” Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) said, “Today, the situation is that there is an attempt to corner India from all sides. The relations with neighbouring countries is not as it should be.”
Yadav expressed concern about about growing friendship between China and Pakistan and said that the Russia’s affinity towards India is also dimnishing.
In such a scenario, he said India has to think about its forein policy and identify which country could be reliable friend during the time of crisis. The SP leader said that Russia should have been taken into confidence when India signed nuclear deal with the US.
Yadav stressed on the need to give priority to the defence sector. “There is a need to strengthen our defence”. Sharad Yadav of JD(U) said the relations with neighbouring countries are not good. He said the entire country is with the government but it should work to strengthen the nation internally and militarily. Yadav said the country has got an able foreign minister but felt that she was not utilised properly. He said India had become a lackey of the US.
Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) said there were serious ruptures in India’s foreign policy which used to be independent and had a say in global policies.
Demanding to know whether it is an independent policy now or aligned, he said unfortunately instead of multi-polarity, India has joined the unipolarity with the US. India has been reduced to a junior strategic ally of the US, he saids.
He said as per information available on the US website, in an agreement on logistics during the fourth visit of the PM, status of India has been shown as a “junior partner” to advance US interests in defence and security in South East Asia and greater region and termed it as the “last nail in our independent foreign policy.”
He said on PM’s fifth visit there was no answer on HIB visa despite 5 lakh Indian youth in IT and indsutries in Silicon Valley being in jeopardy.
Yechury said most of Russia which was a friend earlier had done a pact with Pakistan while India was doing a joint military exercise with US and Japan at Bay of Bengal. Yechury took a jibe at the prime minister that real strength comes from friendship and not displayed by foreign tours or embraces or “jumle” (speeches).
He mentioned a joke on Whatsapp which said that the PM during his last tour was asking which nation is this, only to know that it is India. Swaraj retorted to it that such light comment does not suit such serious discussion to which P J Kurien too said it was a serious discussion.
Manish Gupta (Trinamool) said India has not learnt lessons from 1962 China transgression. Others who participated included A Navaneethakrishnan (AIADMK) and Dileep Kumar Tirkey (BJD).