Amid the over two-year-long military standoff between India and China, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi in Bali on Thursday, on the sidelines of the G-20 foreign ministers’ meeting, and called for “early resolution” of all “outstanding issues along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh”.
While Jaishankar underlined that the India-China relationship is “best served by observing the three mutuals — mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests”, the MEA spokesperson in Delhi drew a hard line as he responded to China’s criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s phone call to the Dalai Lama, action on Chinese firms, and plans to hold G-20 preparatory meetings in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Ladakh.
“The External Affairs Minister called for an early resolution of all the outstanding issues along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh. Recalling the disengagement achieved in some friction areas, he reiterated the need to sustain the momentum to complete disengagement from all the remaining areas to restore peace and tranquility in the border areas,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement.
“He reaffirmed the importance of fully abiding by bilateral agreements and protocols, and the understandings reached between the two ministers during their previous conversations. In this regard, both ministers affirmed that the military and diplomatic officials of the two sides should continue maintaining regular contact and looked forward to the next round of senior commanders’ meeting at an early date. EAM reiterated that India-China relationship is best served by observing the three mutuals – mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests,” the statement said.
“Began my day in Bali by meeting FM Wang Yi of China. Discussion lasted one hour. Focused on specific outstanding issues in our bilateral relationship pertaining to the border situation. Also spoke about other matters including students and flights,” Jaishankar tweeted. “Shared perspectives on the international situation and its impact on the G20 deliberations,” he said.
Jaishankar and Wang last met in Delhi during the latter’s visit in March this year. The MEA statement said Jaishankar recalled their meeting and “reviewed the progress of some key issues discussed then, including the return of (Indian) students (to China)”. He stressed the “need for expediting the process and facilitating the return of students on an early date,” it said.
“The two ministers also exchanged perspectives on other regional and global developments,” the MEA said, adding that Wang “appreciated India’s support during China’s BRICS chairship this year” and “assured China’s support for India’s upcoming G20 and SCO Presidency”. They agreed to remain in touch, it said.
A PTI report from Beijing said Wang told Jaishankar that since March this year, the two countries have maintained communication and exchanges, effectively managed differences, and the bilateral relations have generally “shown a momentum of recovery”. He said both sides should take practical actions to implement the important consensus of their leaders that “the two countries are not each other’s threats, but cooperation partners and development opportunities.”
He also said the two countries should push for the early return of bilateral relations to the right track. He said China and India share common interests and similar legitimate claims, state-run Xinhua news agency reported, quoting a press release on the talks issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Meanwhile, speaking at an event in New Delhi, Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong said that “harmonious co-existence and common development of China and India will make great contribution to the cause of peace and development of mankind”. He said that at the BRICS Summit last month, President Xi Jinping drew a new blueprint for BRICS cooperation, sending out a “powerful message… calling for peace not war, development not regression, openness not isolation, solidarity not division, and cooperation not confrontation.”
This came a day after Modi said on Wednesday that he had called up the Dalai Lama to wish him on his birthday. Responding to a question, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing in Beijing on Thursday that “the Indian side should fully recognise the anti-China separatist nature of the 14th Dalai Lama”. It should abide by its “commitment to China, speak and act prudently and stop using Tibet-related issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs,” Zhao said.
In Delhi, responding to Beijing’s comments, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said: “It is a consistent policy of the Government of India to treat His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, as an honoured guest in India and as a respected religious leader who enjoys a large following in India. His Holiness is accorded all due courtesies and freedom to conduct his religious and spiritual activities in India… His Holiness’s birthday is celebrated by many of his followers in India and abroad. The birthday greetings by Hon’ble PM to his Holiness on his 87th birthday should be seen in this overall context”.
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On the issue of searches on premises linked to Chinese phone company Vivo, the MEA spokesperson said, “I would refer you to the investigative authorities for any further details on that… All I would say is, Chinese companies who operate here otherwise need to follow the law of the land and I think our legal authorities are taking steps as per the law of the land.”
The Chinese Embassy spokesperson had said on Wednesday, “We hope the Indian side will abide by laws as they carry out investigation and enforcement activities and provide a truly fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies investing and operating in India.”
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On China’s criticism of India planning to hold some of the G-20 meetings in the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, the MEA spokesperson said: “India will assume the presidency of G-20 from December 2022. Apart from the Summit next year, a large number of G-20 events at different levels will be organised across the country during our presidency. There is no need to speculate at this stage.”
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