External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Saturday highlighted India’s “strong and firm” response to China, which tried to unilaterally change the status quo on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in May 2020, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and more recently in the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh in December last year.
Speaking at the Tughlaq’s 53rd Annual Day Function, the External Affairs minister said, “On the Northern borders, China is seeking to change the status quo by bringing large forces, violating our agreements. Despite Covid, remember, this happened in May 2020. Our counter-response was strong and firm.”
He said the Indian forces deployed along the border were continuing to safeguard the frontiers in the most extreme and harshest weather conditions.
“These troops deployed in thousands, safeguard our frontiers in the most extreme terrain and harshest weather,” he added.
Expanding on why India mattered more to the world now, Mr Jaishankar said the world saw in India’s response to China that it is “a nation that will not be coerced and will do what it takes to ensure its national security”.
He also emphasised the geopolitical significance and geostrategic location of India.
“In India’s case, geography has added to the case made by the history of its relevance. The Indian peninsula has a visible centrality to the ocean named after it, and there is a continental dimension as well. Without our active participation, no trans-Asia connectivity initiative can really take off. The Indian Ocean is poised to assume even greater geopolitical significance today. How well India leverages its location is a considerable part of its relevance to the world. The more it influences and participates, the more its global stocks will rise,” he said.
This is not the first time that Mr Jaishankar has lambasted China for trying to ‘unilaterally change’ the LAC.
In an interview with the Austrian ZIB2 podcast, a daily news magazine of ORF television, earlier, Mr Jaishankar had said, “We had an agreement not to unilaterally change the LAC, which they have tried to unilaterally do. So there is, I think, an issue, a perception that we have which derives directly from our experiences.”
The Galwan Valley and Pangong Lake in the west of the LAC have been flashpoints between the Indian and Chinese troops most recently. East of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh was where the two forces came to blows last year.
Recently, India and China held the 17th Round of Corps Commander Level Meeting at the Chushul-Moldo border meeting point on the Chinese side on December 20 where both sides agreed to maintain security and stability on the ground in the western sector.
The minister also lauded the growth of India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying it had resulted in the country’s enhanced stature on the global platform. He said that India had become a country that shapes the global agenda and influences its outcomes, citing India’s stand on the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war as a case in point.
“The fundamental goal was to maximise freedom of choice. At times, it is done by keeping a distance, at times it is done by voicing an opinion… On occasion, it is also served by working with others on specific issues at designated theatres. After all, why should we not take advantage of convergences with other powers to advance our own objectives,” he asked.
Mr Jaishankar also underscored the importance of national security amid insurgencies and wars to cross-border terrorism, especially terrorism.
He said that India’s long-suffering approach had created the danger of normalising terrorism. Mr Jaishankar gave examples of Uri and Balakot to underscore India’s shift in policy to deal with cross-border terrorism.
During his address at the gathering, Mr Jaishankar also talked about Covid-19 as he hailed Indian’s emergence as a “successful producer and as well as the inventor of vaccines”.
“This time around, India was not only a successful producer of vaccines for itself and for the world, but an inventor of vaccine. Now, it’s a different matter that some people try to run it down. But of course, the COVID platform which enabled us to execute a 2 billion-plus shot in the arm operation so smoothly, what a contrast it was with many other parts of the world,” Mr Jaishankar said.
“Our solidarity was also expressed in providing vaccines to more than 100 partners worldwide and medicines and medicines to more than 150 nations, including developed nations. There were other developments in the same period that were equally compelling. These were developments at home,” he added.
Mr Jaishankar also said the world offers vast opportunities, but those are embedded with new challenges and responsibilities.
“India matters because these cannot be separated, and India counts on both scores. While size and population are obvious indices of a nation’s potential, neither by themselves are self-fulfilling,” Mr Jaishankar said.