Jaishankar stirs controversy with border patrol remarks; experts warn of sovereignty infringement
Published: May 13, 2024 10:00 PM
China India Photo:CFP

China India Photo:CFP

Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar reiterated India's desire for a resolution of remaining issues with China in a recent interview, highlighting that normal bilateral ties depend on peace and tranquility at the border. However, while expressing a seemingly positive stance, Jaishankar indicated that the remaining issues mainly revolve around "patrolling rights and patrolling abilities." 

Chinese scholars and military experts strongly objected to these remarks, cautioning that they effectively annex the current disputed areas into Indian territory, constituting a severe infringement of Chinese sovereignty.

Jaishankar made the remarks during an exclusive interview with PTI and he emphasized that resolving border issues is a foundation on which the relationship between the two countries can come back to normal.

He also commented on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks to Newsweek magazine last month, in which he said that the border situation needs to be addressed urgently and that stable and peaceful ties between India and China are important for not just the two countries but for the entire region and the world.

"But today, our relations with China are not normal because the peace and tranquility in the border areas has been disturbed. So he (Modi) was expressing the hope that the Chinese side should realize that the present situation is not in its own interest," Jaishankar said.

Regarding Jaishankar's remarks, China should remain highly vigilant, Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow with the Institute of International Relations at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday.

His "patrol rights" remarks actually incorporate the current disputed areas between China and India into Indian territory, severely infringing upon Chinese sovereignty, Hu pointed out.

While Modi downplays the Chinese-Indian border issue, Jaishankar adopts a tougher stance, indicating that the softening of Modi's attitude may be only for the sake of domestic elections, Hu noted.

According to the expert, in order to secure 430 seats before the elections, Modi may try easing Chinese-Indian relations to woo a group of swing voters.

China must not only listen to India's soft words but also prepare for military struggles, Hu said, adding that Jaishankar confused the scope of border and patrol rights, deliberately provoking China. 

Zhang Junshe, a Chinese military expert, told the Global Times on Monday that Jaishankar possibly intends to deflect responsibility for the existing border issue by blaming China. 

"It's quite obvious that the current border issues are entirely caused by India's continuous provocations in recent years. As long as India stops provoking, the problem can calm down," Zhang said.

Both parties need to place the border issue in an appropriate position within their bilateral relations, Zhang said. 

If India attempts to use the border issue as leverage against China, it won't work because China is equally determined to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, Zhang noted. 

China and India held the 29th meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) on March 27, with the two sides vowing to continue talks through diplomatic and military channels to resolve border issues.

The two sides made positive comments on the progress made in bringing the border situation under control, holding a candid and in-depth exchange of views on the next stage of work, and agreeing to reach a mutually acceptable plan at an early date to ensure the border situation reaches a phase of regular control.

Ambassador-designate to India Xu Feihong said during an interview on May 10 that the Chinese side believes that China-India ties should not be defined by any single issue or area, and the boundary question is not the entirety of the relationship. 

China is ready to work with India to accommodate each other's concerns, find a mutually acceptable solution to specific issues through dialogue at an early date, and turn the page as soon as possible, he said.