Mumbai: External Affairs minister Dr. S. Jaishankar has said that 'India is the only country in the world today, which is standing eye-to-eye against China'. He was replying to questions from Rajat Sharma on India TV show 'Aap Ki Adalat'.
Sharma asked the minister why 19 rounds of talks have been going on between army commanders from both sides in Ladakh, if China has not entered our territory. Jaishankar replied, "The 19 rounds of talks took place because both forces have been deployed in forward positions and have very close to each other. When forces equipped with weapons are on full alert, when they are deployed in forward positions and there is tension in the air, there are more chances of an accident happening. If such a situation continues, there are chances of things happening that took place earlier. The present negotiations are over how much they would pull back, and how much we would pull back This is nothing new. A similar situation happened on the border in Barahoti, Uttarakhand, way back in 1958, when both sides had moved forward and then there was an agreement to pull back. In 1986, there was Chinese transgression in Sumdorong Chu valley in Arunachal Pradesh. For nine years talks went on till 1995, there was an agreement and both sides pulled back....During Covid, we carried out a huge troop movement in Ladakh. Today if there is one country which stands eye-to-eye against China in the world, it is us." (अगर आज कोई दुनिया में चीन के मुकाबले में साथ आँख से आंख मिलाकर खड़ा है तो हम खड़े हैं।)
Jaishankar explained how India airlifted nearly 70,000 soldiers during the stand-off near LAC in Ladakh in 2020. He said, "In 2020, there was Covid pandemic, and there was nationwide lockdown. Chinese troops had violated the 1993 and 1996 agreements on peace and tranquility, which stipulated that both sides cannot deploy armies close to the LAC. These are written agreements, 30 years old. When Chinese army violated, they probably thought we would not counter-deploy because of the Covid lockdown in April-June, 2020. Modi Ji decided that since there was threat from China, we must counter-deploy. We used air force, railway and road systems. Our air force alone airlifted nearly 70,000 jawans. We also airlifted tanks, heavy guns and trucks. You know, our border infrastructure was not strong when Modiji came to power. The previous UPA government was on record having said that if we leave our border like this, the Chinese cannot enter. This was their line of thought. There was no focus on developing border infrastructure. Now there has been much progress in the last 10 years. So if there is a standoff going there today, it is because of Modi government's decision. If they (Rahul Gandhi) are more worried about territory, we too are serious. But it is a fact that we lost 38,000 sq km of land to the Chinese in 1962. They should have worried at that time. When they visited Olympics in China, they should have discussed territory with them. I do not know whether they discussed territory or not. "
This was in oblique reference to the visit to 2008 Beijing Olympics by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
Rajat Sharma: Rahul Gandhi visited Ladakh recently and went to Pangong Tso lake. He said, China has occupied several thousand sq km of our area there.
Dr S. Jaishankar: "It's a nice thing he visited Pangong Tso and saw the area from a distance. In 1959, the Chinese came and by 1962, they occupied the area. There is a famous place Khurnak Fort (on the northern shore of Pangong Lake) which they occupied. We lost 38,000 sq km area to the Chinese in 1962."
Rajat Sharma: Rahul Gandhi says he once talked to you about China but he says Jaishankar Ji does not know much.
Jaishankar: "What can I say? Maybe I could not explain to him properly, or there may be something lacking in the person trying to understand. It could be my fault. Maybe he is a knowledgeable, a clever person."
Rajat Sharma: You stayed in China for a long time?
Jaishankar: I was the ambassador there for four and a half years. It was my longest record there.
Rajat Sharma: Yet you couldn't understand China?
Jaishankar: Maybe if I had spent those four and a half years with him (Rahul), I could have understood China better.
The External Affairs Minister said, there appears to be a "plan" behind Chinese army committing transgressions regularly at the Line of Actual Control. He said: "Already we have a boundary dispute, but for me, the point of worry is that there appears to be some strategy behind all this. Already we have two agreements signed in 1993 and 1996. There should not have been big troop deployments. They have done this deliberately. If there are mistakes (transgressions), it could be 100 or 1,000, but 10,000 is not a mistake. There is some plan, some order behind this. When they transgressed, it means they wanted to put pressure on us, and the reply to pressure was that we have to tackle it."
Rajat Sharma: This is being interpreted as if Modi fears China?
Jaishankar: "No. Their effort is to put pressure on us, and our response is to counter-deploy. Our army are in position there. If you ask, we are the only one in the world who stand in a head-to-head confrontation with China. Think about how we mobilized our army during Covid."
Rajat Sharma: It was a difficult task?
Jaishankar: 'We did not make it public at that time because we thought this was a matter of national security. We didn't want a public debate. There was no advantage in doing that. The large-scale troop movement did take place. If there is one country which stands eye-to-eye against China, it's us."
On the recent Chinese map showing Arunachal Pradesh as part of China's Tibet region, Dr S Jaishankar replied: " Their policy regarding Arunachal Pradesh is not correct. Forget the map, the land is ours, which they have named on their own. Let them name it, the land is ours. That's a different matter. Point is, the manner in which people are trying to mislead. The land that China occupied in 1962 and before that, they are trying to shift the blame on us today."
RAHUL GANDHI ON CHINA
When Rajat Sharma pointed out that Rahul Gandhi had spoken about the Chinese vision, during his visit to Brussels recently, Dr Jaishankar lashed out at the Congress leader, saying: "At a time, when we were having the biggest conference (G20) in our history, which should have been praised by all, he goes outside and criticizes. Leave it to him. But what I would like say is: sometimes you disclose your real position by mistake. Like, the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative project. It passes through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. When you speak of Belt and Road, you do not even speak two words to say that it is a violation of our territorial integrity. So you see, you inner feeling gets exposed."
Dr Jaishankar said, "In 2017, there was the stand-off going in Dokalam on India-Bhutan-China border. At that time, he (Rahul) had a meeting with the Chinese ambassador in Delhi. We were surprised because our armed forces were in a stand-off against Chinese troops at that time. If he had wanted a briefing, he could have called us. I was Foreign Secretary at that time. I was not in politics. What was the necessity of taking a briefing from the Chinese ambassador?"
Rajat Sharma: What do you think, who feeds him about China?
Jaishankar: "I don't know, and I do not normally speak on matter which I don't know."
MODI AND G20
The External Affairs minister, while describing the recently conclude G20 summit as a resounding success that showcased what he termed as a "Shining India", said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has become "a sort of a role model for several world leaders."
Rajat Sharma: The Italian PM Giorgia Meloni has described Modi as the most loved leader in the world?
Jaishankar: "There are many such countries and world leaders for whom Modi Ji has become a sort of a role model. They find him very much decisive, courageous in the face of big challenges and his great vision. The world today has become tech-savvy. Modi gets the largest support from those who are tech-savvy. Modi ji's initiatives always has a good connect somewhere."
Rajat Sharma: What do heads of states or prime ministers or presidents speak to you about Modi?
Jaishankar: "Look, my biggest problem is, when they come, everybody wants to meet him. I am also a time manager. I face some problems on how to arrange meetings for all, how to organize. You must have seen, the moment he handed over the gavel to Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, our responsibility ended. But soon afterwards, all other leaders stayed behind. They wanted to meet Modi Ji in one-to-one meetings. Our program that day went on till late into the night, because every leader wanted to meet him before leaving."
Rajat Sharma: The Australian Prime Minister had publicly said, "He is The Boss". What dialogue did Modi make for him to say so?
Jaishankar: "Dialogue Nahin Maara. Modi Ji Apne Dialogue Ko Ek Kism Se Radiate Karte Hain Jab Woh Aate Hain. Aapko Nahin Lagta Ki He Is The Boss?" (There was no dialogue. Modiji's dialogue radiates from him when he enters. Don't you think, He Is The Boss?)
Asked whose idea was it to assemble all G20 leaders at the samadhi of Gandhiji at Rajghat, Dr S. Jaishankar replied, "No. There are two points. One, it was Modi Ji's idea because Gandhiji is the most iconic figure across the world. So when world leaders came, it was felt proper to go there together and pay our tributes. It seemed a natural thing for me and him (Modi) too. Two, many people appreciated this. We heard, saw pictures and we had that emotional feeling there. Many leaders mentioned this in the third last session."
Rajat Sharma: But Congress leaders are saying that Modi Ji has taken over their icon Gandhiji?
Jaishankar: "Arrey, what should I say? Those who crib will continue to crib, those who work will continue to work. Look, G20 is not a political issue. It relates to our country. Every Indian citizen should feel proud."
Dr S Jaishankar disclosed how Modi had to intervene personally to ensure that a unanimous joint declaration was adopted at the G20 summit. He said, "At several points of time, we felt there won't be a joint declaration. It was a difficult task. It was not easy to have unanimity in today's world situation....Finally, before we had to conclude, we found that we need to speak to only a few countries directly. This was in the interest of all. Had we failed in getting unanimity on Ukraine, all our work on other issues could have gone waste. Our team told me, and I went to Modi Ji and told him, these are two or three leaders to whom you must speak directly. He went and spoke to them directly."
Rajat Sharma: Well, for the first time you are revealing that it was because of Modi Ji that the joint declaration was adopted?
Jaishankar: "There was a huge lounge, twice or thrice the size of this studio. He (Modi) went personally and convinced these leaders to accept a compromise, because the total package was in every nation's interest. He told them, please do not block the declaration because of a word or a sentence. I felt, most of the leaders agreed, they had personal respect for Modi Ji and they were aware of the relationship."