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China tussle with India blown out of proportion: S Jaishankar

He briefed the members of the Parliamentary standing committee on External Affairs

Archis Mohan 

China tussle blown out of proportion: S Jaishankar

Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar today told a panel that supranationalism and media hype on the issue has blown out of proportion the military standoff between India and China.

The Foreign Secretary didn't name any of the Sangh Parivar outfits that have in recent times called for boycott of Chinese manufactured goods or said India should annex Kailash Mansarovar. He, however, said supranationalist narrative has contributed to escalation of tension between the two neighbours, deterioration of bilateral ties and hindered efforts to resolve the dispute through diplomacy and negotiations.

Jaishankar briefed the members of the standing committee on External Affairs and fielded questions from the members. Congress' Lok Sabha member heads the committee. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, Trinamool Congress' Sugata Bose, Communist Party of India (Marxist)'s Mohammad Salim, Bharatiya Janata Party's Sharad Tripathi and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's Kanimozhi were among 20 of the 31 members who attended the meeting.

Some of the members asked Jaishankar about the sequence of events that led to standoff, whether India has kept its "friends" in the loop, the nature of response from Russia and United States, the increasing influence of China in India's neighbourhood and the perceived worsening of India's relations with its immediate neighbours.

The Foreign Secretary said MEA was trying to resolve the standoff diplomatically through negotiations. He said Ministry of External Affairs was in contact with the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, while New Delhi's Beijing mission is engaged in negotiations with the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

According to sources in the meeting, CPI (M)'s Salim asked a pointed question about whether West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Jammu and Kashmir CM Mehbooba Mufti had specific intelligence inputs from the Centre when they accused Beijing of having a hand in the recent disturbances in Darjeeling and the Kashmir Valley, respectively.

Foreign Secretary's reply underlined how states and state specific concerns have come to influence India's foreign policy. Jaishankar said it wasn't his place to rebut the two chief ministers, but admitted such statements queered the pitch for negotiations. Turning to Trinamool's Sugata Bose, the Foreign Secretary said some of the members could be of assistance in this.

Gandhi wanted to know if New Delhi has reached out to Thimphu, and whether the standoff was China's way of telling Bhutan that India wasn't there to protect its interests. According to sources, Jaishankar replied that MEA's negotiations are in consultations with the Bhutanese and New Delhi had Thimphu's confidence.

The Congress vice president also asked why several of India's friends, including Russia and Iran, as also China and Turkey, have in recent weeks expressed concern at the situation in Kashmir. "Is it our diplomatic failure?" he asked, according to sources present at the meeting.

On another question from Gandhi about China's increasing influence in India's neighbourhood, the Foreign Secretary said it was part of every country's foreign policy to enlarge their footprint and both Beijing and New Delhi, in their own ways, have expanded their engagements with these countries.

In the context of Chinese foreign ministry reaching out to foreign embassies in Beijing to brief them about Dokalam, members wanted to know if New Delhi had done the same. The Foreign Secretary said MEA believed in quieter diplomacy and would be willing to brief foreign embassies but didn't want to broadcast the effort.

Salim wanted to know the reasons behind the plummeting of India-China ties within two years of Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to India, and especially to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state of Gujarat.

Jaishankar told the panel members that India has clearly outlined its position on the border and Chinese have their own position, but they were misrepresenting it and India trying to clarify it. He said India has maintained its position on the border laid down in the 1895 Anglo-Chinese agreement.

First Published: Wed, July 19 2017. 09:03 IST