India de-legitimised cross-border terrorism: Jaishankar
Says ties with China cannot progress without peace and tranquillity at border
New Delhi: India will not tolerate cross-border terrorist activities and it cannot keep aside terrorism to improve ties with Islamabad under its neighbourhood first policy, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Thursday.
He said if Pakistan wants to take the relations forward, it knows what to do, adding India has de-legitimised the cross-border terrorism.
The external affairs minister also described the revocation of Article 370 of the Constitution from Jammu and Kashmir in 2019 as a long-awaited step, saying it was very crucial for national security.
“I do think that what was done in 2019 was a very very crucial step in a long-awaited step for national security. The whole world used it against us. They saw it as a point of vulnerability,” Jaishankar said at a press conference.
“They saw it as something they should keep pressing and keep using and keep turning as a way of keeping India off-balanced. If we do not get it right, how do you expect the world to get it right,” he said.
The Article 370 gave special powers to Jammu and Kashmir.
“For us, the first thing was to remedy it at home and that is what we did in 2019. Once you sorted it out at home, then the question was how does the world react to it,” Jaishankar added.
He said many countries around the world now understand India’s perspective on the issue.
On August 5, 2019, India announced the withdrawal of the special powers of Jammu and Kashmir and its decision to bifurcate the state into two union territories.
Jammu and Kashmir had enjoyed the special status that was granted under Article 370 of the Constitution.
“We spent a lot of time getting people to understand what it was about. Our problem was that there were a lot of false narratives and much of it originated in our own country. We had to deal with it and we dealt with it,” he said.
“I see no reason why Jammu and Kashmir should be denied the benefits not only of development but of globalisation that the rest of India is experiencing. I think it is their right and we should promote it,” he said.
Replying to a question on India’s ‘neighbourhood first policy’, Jaishankar said it has enhanced regional cooperation in diverse areas including connectivity, power and trade.
At the same time, he asserted that India cannot keep aside cross-border terrorism to improve ties with Pakistan under the policy.
India has been maintaining that Pakistan must stop supporting cross-border terrorism to restore normal bilateral relations.
“It is neither the country’s sentiment nor the Modi government’s thinking. If Pakistan wants to take the relations forward, they know what to do. It knows and the world knows,” he said.
He also described as unfounded any expectation that India will normalise its ties with China when the border situation in eastern Ladakh is not normal.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar describing the “forward deployment” of troops as the main problem.
Jaishankar said India also wants to improve the relations with China, but it can only be possible when there is peace and tranquillity in the border areas.
He said India has made it very clear to China that until there is peace and tranquillity in border areas, the relationship between the two countries cannot progress.
Jaishankar said India does not get swayed by coercion, inducements and false narratives, while citing examples of New Delhi’s approach towards the situation along the Northern border and its opposition to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
The Indian and Chinese troops are locked in a confrontation for over three years in certain friction points in eastern Ladakh even as the two sides completed disengagement from several areas following extensive diplomatic and military talks.
Jaishankar said the two sides will have to find ways for disengagement of the troops and that the current impasse is not to China’s interests either.
“The fact is that the relationship is impacted and it will continue to be impacted… If there is any expectation that somehow we will normalise (the ties) when the border situation is not normal, that’s not a well-founded expectation,” he said, replying to a volley of questions.
Asked to clarify whether China has occupied Indian territory following the border row that erupted in May 2020, Jaishankar said the problem is of “forward deployment of troops”.
The ties between the two countries nosedived significantly following the fierce clash in the Galwan Valley in June 2020 that marked the most serious military conflict between the two sides in decades.
“We want to improve relations with China. But it will be possible only when there is peace and tranquillity in border areas and if there is an agreement, it should be adhered to,” Jaishankar said.
He said both sides are engaged in talks to resolve the row.
“It is not that communications have broken down. The point is that with China, even before Galwan happened, we were talking to the Chinese saying that look we are seeing movement of your forces which in our view is violative of our understanding. The morning after Galwan happened, I actually spoke to my (Chinese) counterpart,” he said.
Since then, he said both sides have been engaged in talks at diplomatic and military levels.
“At the end of the day disengagement is a very detailed process,” he said, adding the details of it have to be worked out by people on the ground.
The external affairs minister said India’s ties with all the leading countries and key groupings are on an upswing, except with China.
Asked why, he said: “That answer can only be given by China. Because China consciously for some reason chose in 2020 to break agreements to move forces to the border areas and seek to coerce us.
“It has been made very clear to them that until there is peace and tranquillity in border areas, our relationship cannot progress. So that is the obstacle that is holding that back,” he said.
The eastern Ladakh border standoff erupted following a violent clash in the Pangong lake area.
As a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides completed the disengagement process in 2021 on the north and south banks of the Pangong lake and in the Gogra area.