Amid the ongoing UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday delved into New Delhi’s growing profile on the world stage, as he broke down India’s steady ties with Russia since the 1950s, the “pleasures of dealing” with China, and growing relationship with the United States.
Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations, the minister talked about India’s vision and strategy in dealing with the multipolar world. In a conversation with former US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster, Jaishankar said, “You actually see an India whose footprint is more, whose interest and activities are more.”
On the sidelines of UNGA, Jaishankar stressed how the nature of world politics has changed and the issues have changed, adding that there are a variety of issues driving “heightened Indian activity” on the world stage. “The goal is now to strive to be a developed country in a quarter of a century,” he added.
‘Never been easy’ with China
Jaishankar opened up about the ongoing tensions in India-China ties. He said, “One of the pleasures of dealing with China is that they never quite tell you things. You often end up trying to figure it out. There is always ambiguity out there.”
“It has never been an easy relationship. There was a war in 1962 and military incidents after that, but after 1975, there has never been a combat fatality on the border. In 1988, we normalized the relationship when then-Prime Minister Rajeev Gandhi went to China. In 1993 and 1996, we did two agreements with China to stabilise the boundary which is disputed. At the Line of Control (LoC), it was agreed that either of us would mass troops there. If we brought more troops, the other side would be notified. So, it was expected the way it was laid out. There were subsequent agreements after that, one in 2005 and one in 2012,” he said.
On the Galwan border clash in 2020, the minister continued saying, “It was in many ways a very unique situation because what would happen in the boundary areas is that troops on either side would step out of their military bases, they would do their patrolling and go back to bases. If they happened to intersect, there were very clear rules on how they would conduct themselves.”
In the aftermath of the deadly clash, Jaishankar said, “It’s hard to be normal with a country that has broken agreements and done what it has done. “For the last three years, there has been an abnormal state, contacts have been disrupted, visits have not taken place, and there have been high levels of military tensions. It has also impacted the perception of China in India. This perception was not positive in the 1960s and 1970s. I think there is an immediate issue, a medium-term issue, and a possible long-term issue.”
Steady Russia Ties Since 1950s
When asked about India’s relations with Russia given the no-limit partnership between Beijing and Moscow, Jaishankar said, “Because its relationship with Europe has been so severely disrupted, Russia is turning to Asia and other parts of the world. I would predict that Russia would make strenuous efforts to build alternative relationships, many of which will be in Asia. This would reflect in the economy and trade and perhaps in other domains as well. Russia-China would have a particular profile and particular salience in this. But I would say that our own relationship with Russia has been extremely steady since the 1950s.
If you look at the last 70 years of world politics, Jaishankar said there have been very big ups and downs in ties between Russia, the US, China, and Europe. “But the India-Russia relationship held very very stead. There is an understanding between the two countries. There is a kind of structural basis for our having to get along and wanting to get along. And we take great care to make sure the relations are working,” he said.
Asked about the limits of the US-India partnership, he said, “Rather than limits, I would put it as possibilities. Let’s take a more optimistic view of how relationships work.” “My sense is that the United States is fundamentally readjusting to the world. It is doing so part of is long-term consequences of Iraq and Afghanistan. But that’s only one part of it,” he said.
Jaishankar suggested that the US is adjusting to a multipolar world. “We will actually be looking at a world and probably entered that world where the United States is no longer in a way of saying, okay I basically… leave it at my allies. Quad itself is a demonstration of that,” he added.
On India-US ties, the minister said the convergence today far outweighs the divergence. “I am no longer prepared to think that where are the limits but I think where are all the opportunities and how much we can step on the gas and take up forward,” he added.
Earlier on Tuesday, Jaishankar addressed the 78th UN General Assembly, and called on UN member states to resist “political convenience” in their responses to terrorism and violence, in an implicit criticism of Canada. He also said that respect for territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs must be universal.