External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar emphasized the importance of India-China relations at the 13th All India Conference of China Studies, to which China, on Friday said that it “appreciates” those remarks but reiterated its calls for the boundary dispute to “not be linked with the overall bilateral relations”. In his speech on Thursday, Mr. Jaishankar said the relationship needed to be built on “mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests”.

He outlined eight propositions to take the ties forward after what he called a year of “exceptional stress”. China’s actions last year had “not only signaled a disregard for commitments about minimizing troop levels” but also “showed a willingness to breach the peace and tranquility” on the border that had been the foundation of the relationship. Jaishankar made it evident that the only way the two countries can move forward, is when their armies to go back to their permanent bases along the 1597-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) in East Ladakh.

When asked to respond to Mr. Jaishankar’s remarks, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, “He stressed the importance of India-China relations; it shows the Indian side attaches importance to the ties with China, we appreciate this”.

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Mr. Lijian also added, “Meanwhile, we stress that the boundary issue shall not be linked with the overall bilateral relations. That is important experience we have gathered through the countries many years efforts to keep the ties moving forward. We hope the Indian side will work with us to properly manage difference, promote practical cooperation and bring bilateral relations back on track.”

India and China’s relationship has been going through a strenuous phase due to border issues. In recent months, China has hit out at India’s economic measures, such as the banning of apps and tightening the curbs on investment, saying events on the border should not be linked to other aspects of relations.

India has reiterated its view that such a proposition is unsustainable, and normal relations can’t be restored until there is peace on the border. Mr. Jaishankar underlined that view in his speech, saying that any expectation that the events on the border “can be brushed aside and that life can carry on undisturbed despite the situation in the border is simply not realistic.”

This address has been given at a time when China has been talking about de-escalation plans with India for East Ladakh but has been making aggressive moves in north Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. China also threateans other countries including India to dissuade them from taking up the issue of Tibet, Hong Kong or Taiwan. Jaishankar’s address restated India’s stance of standing up to China and that its actions will have consequences. 

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