India has made it clear to China that peace and tranquillity in border areas are essential for the development of bilateral ties and that it can only be based on ”three mutuals” — mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said today.
He said as an immediate neighbour of Afghanistan, India is naturally concerned about the recent changes in that country and their implications for the region and that India’s friendship with Afghan people will continue to guide its approach in the future.
In an address at the sixth J P Morgan ”India Investor Summit”, Mr Shringla said the situation in India’s neighbourhood, particularly in Afghanistan, and with China on the eastern borders reminds us that while the new realities are making themselves felt, traditional security challenges remain.
Talking about “megatrends”, he listed the phenomenon of rebalancing in which global activity is moving towards Asia, the rise of China and the pressure on the international systems among others.
On New Delhi’s ties with Beijing, he said Chinese attempts over the last year to “unilaterally” alter the status quo in Ladakh have “seriously disturbed” peace and tranquillity in the border areas.
“These acts are in violation of our bilateral agreements and have inevitably impacted other aspects of the bilateral relationship,” he said, referring to the eastern Ladakh border standoff.
“We have made it clear to the Chinese side that peace and tranquillity in border areas are essential for the development of our relationship. Development of India-China relationship can only be based on ”three mutuals”- mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests,” he added.
Mr Shringla said an essential basis for the largely positive trajectory of India-China relations during the last 40 years has been the agreement between the two countries to ensure peace and tranquillity in the border areas.
On the situation in Afghanistan, he referred to the recent UN Security Council resolution 2693 and said it demanded that Afghan territory should not be used for sheltering, training, planning or financing terrorist acts and also specifically refers to terrorists proscribed by the global body, including those from Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
“As an immediate neighbour, we are naturally concerned about the recent changes within Afghanistan and their implications for us and the region,” Mr Shringla said.
The foreign secretary said India’s immediate focus was on the evacuation of its nationals from Afghanistan and that most of them were able to leave Kabul in August along with a number of Afghans, including minorities.
“However, this process could not be completed due to the security situation at the airport. Resumption of flights from Kabul airport is, therefore, a priority. We are closely monitoring the unfolding situation,” Mr Shringla said.
Elaborating on the UN Security Council resolution on Afghanistan, he noted that it was adopted under India’s presidency of the global body and that it comprehensively addressed the main pending issues relating to that country.
The foreign secretary said India is also monitoring developments related to the humanitarian needs of Afghanistan.
In UNDP’s assessment, there is an imminent threat of poverty levels rising in Afghanistan besides a threat of an imminent drought and a food security crisis, he said.
“It is important for the humanitarian assistance providers to be given unrestricted and direct access to Afghanistan,” the foreign secretary said.
He also underlined the need to ensure that the distribution of humanitarian assistance is done in a “non-discriminatory manner” to all sections of Afghan society.
“India’s approach to Afghanistan has been guided by our civilisational relationship with the Afghan people. We have extended over USD 3 billion as development assistance for the welfare of the people of Afghanistan,” he said.
Referring to the recent in-person Quad summit, Mr Shringla said the agenda of cooperation under this framework is constructive and diverse.
“The four Quad countries are engaged on issues of connectivity and infrastructure, emerging technologies, climate action, education, and most important of all, COVID-19 responses – which include vaccines collaboration, and resilient and reliable supply chains,” he said.
He said India is involved in multiple initiatives, within the framework of Quad and with Quad countries individually, on supply chain resilience.