Border rows can end sans violence: India to China, Pak

Border rows can end sans violence: India to China, Pak

Sushma Swaraj

India on Wednesday signalled that its unresolved border disputes with China and Pakistan could be resolved, if the two neighbours had the right spirit to avoid violence and hostility.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj noted that India's “commitment to upholding territorial integrity and sovereignty” remained “unwavering”. “Our consistent message is that unresolved border issues can be resolved bilaterally, when approached in the right spirit and, in an atmosphere free from violence and hostility,” she said, speaking at the Raisina Dialogue, held by Ministry of External Affairs in partnership with Observer Research Foundation.

India has unresolved border disputes with China and Pakistan but Swaraj did not refer to them specifically or any other neighbouring country.

The minister's comment was at an event where China's aggression and reluctance to go by international laws to settle territorial disputes with Japan and other nations over East China Sea and South China Sea came under renewed focus. 

Regional connectivity

“We have rebuilt India’s bridges, both literally and figuratively speaking, with its immediate and extended neighbourhood,” Swaraj said, adding: “We have devoted a much higher level of resources and attention to our neighbourhood, not only when it comes to formal diplomatic engagements but also in pushing next generation regional connectivity and critical infrastructure, and also at times of distress and need.”

She noted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's strategic vision of SAGAR (or “Security and Growth for All in the Region”) had spurred a qualitative transformation in India’s engagement with the Indian Ocean Region in recent years. India's revitalised “Act East” and “Think West” paradigms had further broadened the reach of its strategic and economic ‘neighbourhood’, said the External Affairs Minister.

Pakistan has been in illegal occupation of approximately 78,000 sq km of territory in Jammu and Kashmir. China has been in illegal occupation of approximately 38,000 sq km of territory of India – in J&K itself – since 1962. Pakistan illegally ceded an additional 5,180 sq km of territory of India to China on March 2, 1963.

China too claims approximately 90,000 sq km of area in Arunachal Pradesh, in addition to about 2000 sq km in the middle sector of the boundary.

The Special Representatives of India and China have been holding negotiations to resolve the boundary disputes since 2003, albeit without much progress. The formal bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan remained stalled since January 2013. New Delhi made it clear that it would not restart its engagement with Islamabad, unless the latter stops exporting terror from Pakistan to India.

The soldiers of India and China often cross the Line of Actual Control – the de facto border between the two nations – and transgress into each other's territory, sometimes resulting in escalation of tension and face-offs. Indian Army and Chinese People's Liberation Army had a 72-day-long stand-off at Doklam Plateau in western Bhutan in 2017.

“Ensuring zero-tolerance towards terrorism, and those who use it as an instrument of convenience, is the need of the hour,” Swaraj said on Wednesday.

“We are building sustainable development partnerships stretching from the Indian Ocean and Pacific Islands to the Caribbean, and from the continent of Africa to the Americas,” Swaraj said. “These initiatives have expanded, both in geographical reach and sectoral coverage, and now include Lines of Credit and grants, technical consultancy, educational scholarships and a range of capacity-building programmes. Note that we refer to these as partnerships, and not assistance.”

She also pointed out that India's partnerships were “consultative, non-reciprocal, and outcome oriented”. “We are of the firm belief that to be truly sustainable, such regional initiatives must be based on universally recognised international norms, good governance, openness, financial viability, and transparency,” said Swaraj.