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Transcript of Special Briefing by External Affairs Minister on Meeting with Foreign Minister of China (March 25, 2022)

March 25, 2022

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: A very good afternoon to all of you. Thank you very much for joining us on this special Media Briefing on the occasion of the visit of the Foreign Minister of China, His Excellency, Mr. Wang Yi. To give you the sense of the conversation today that he had with our External Affairs Minister, we actually have the privilege of having EAM here with us. Also, joining us on the dais - Foreign Secretary, Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, as well as the Additional Secretary in the Ministry looking after East Asia division, Shri Naveen Srivastava. Sir, without further ado, I'll hand over the floor to you.

Dr. S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister: Good Afternoon! As you are all aware, my talks with Foreign Minister Wang Yi have just concluded. We met for about 3 hours and addressed a broad and substantive agenda in an open and candid manner. We discussed our bilateral relations that have been disturbed as a result of Chinese actions since April 2020. The occasion provided an opportunity to exchange views on major international issues, including Afghanistan and Ukraine. We also took up some other important concerns in our bilateral relationship, including education, travel and commerce.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi and I have been in touch with each other over the last two years, even if we had not visited each other’s country. We met in Moscow in September 2020 and then again in Dushanbe in July and September 2021. We have had telephonic conversations during this period. And the focus of these interactions have naturally been on the situation in our border areas. Our meeting had led to an understanding on disengagement and de-escalation. The challenge, of course, has been to implement it on the ground. We have had 15 rounds of talks between Senior Commanders and progress has been achieved on several friction points from the disengagement perspective. This needs to be taken forward since the completion of disengagement is necessary for discussions on de-escalation to take place. I would describe our current situation as work in progress, obviously at a slower pace than desirable and my discussions with FM Wang Yi today were aimed at expediting the process.

The impact of the tensions in the border areas on the overall relationship has been visible in the last two years. This is only natural since peace and tranquillity in the border areas have been the foundation of stable and cooperative ties. Indeed, we have agreements that were designed explicitly to strengthen this foundation and prevent the kind of situation that we are seeing today. I was very honest in my discussions with the Chinese Foreign Minister, especially in conveying our national sentiments on this issue. The frictions and tensions that arise from China’s deployments since April 2020 cannot be reconciled with a normal relationship between two neighbours. Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke about China’s desire for a return to normalcy, while also referring to the larger significance of our ties. I was equally forthcoming that India wants a stable and predictable relationship. But restoration of normalcy will obviously require a restoration of peace and tranquillity. If we are both committed to improving our ties, then this commitment must find full expression in ongoing disengagement talks.

We had an extensive exchange of views on a number of contemporary matters. I laid out India’s principled approach to international relations based on respect for international law, UN Charter and sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. Disputes should be resolved without use or threat of use of force. Nor should there be attempts to unilaterally change the status quo. Where India and China are concerned, our relationship is best served by observing the three mutuals – mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests.

We discussed today specific regional situations. Insofar as Afghanistan is concerned, India’s policy is guided by the UN Security Council Resolution 2593. On Ukraine, we discussed our respective approaches and perspectives but agreed that diplomacy and dialogue must be the priority. We also spent some time on multilateral issues. I emphasized the need to take forward the long overdue reform of the UN system, including the Security Council.

I also took up strongly the predicament of Indian students studying in China who have not been allowed to return, citing Covid restrictions. We hope that China will take a non-discriminatory approach, since it involves the future of so many young people. Minister Wang Yi assured me that he would speak to the relevant authorities on his return on this matter. He also recognised the particular concerns that medical students have in this difficult situation. Also on the agenda were matters pertaining to trade and investment. We continue to press for fairer market access.

So overall, I would say that our talks today added to clarity in regard to various aspects of our bilateral relations. They also provided a useful opportunity for an exchange of perspectives on international issues. Thank you.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
Thank you very much, Sir. We have a paucity of time. I can see a lot of hands going up. Please introduce yourselves before you pose your question as well as your organization.

Sridhar: Good afternoon Sir. Sridhar, from the Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle. My question is, Sir after the talks, did you get a sense that the Chinese are willing to vacate whatever land they have grabbed in the Ladakh sector in friction areas other than Pangong Tso? And what was Mr. Wang Yi’s response? Are you hopeful that now the logjam will finally be broken? Thank you.

Parikshit: Minister Jaishankar, I’m Parikshit from CNBC TV18. Wanted to ask you about the discussions on Ukraine. You said that both sides discussed each other's perspectives. Were there any similarities in how the two sides would approach the situation in the days to come?

Manish Jha: Sir, Mein Manish Jha hun TV9 Bharatvarsh se (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Sir, I am Manish Jha from TV9 Bharatvarsh. Sir, my question is whether you have discussed something related to Quad and then what was his reaction?

Suhasini Haider: Jaishankar, if I could ask you, if the subject of return to the status quo ante, as in April 2020, came up in your talks, and what would be the point at which you would think that normalcy has returned? And it seems as if your conversations have been on every part of the bilateral relationship - trade, travel, you've discussed multilateral issues, the UN Security Council reforms. Would this be then a sort of return to normalcy in bilateral talks?

Dr. S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister: So, let me in a sense, where there an overlap of a question, answer it once. So first issue is the situation in the border areas. You know, as I said in my opening statement, we have still ongoing friction areas. We've also made a lot of progress in resolving some other friction areas and Pangong Tso is notable in that regard. So, essentially, our discussion today was to how to take this forward. Now, you all know that the senior military commanders have been meeting. There have been 15 rounds. In fact, Naveen here has been attending those meetings as well. Now, the point is that, so long as there are very large deployments in the border areas, which are violative of the 1993 and 1996 agreements, clearly the border area situation is not normal. So, the main point which again, I've spelt out at some length in my statement, is we have a situation where peace and tranquillity in the border areas has been disturbed. So, the situation there is not normal. The situation there is not normal, if peace and tranquillity is the foundation of, you know, the basis of how we are going forward, then, obviously, that is also disturbed. So, the answer in that sense is, if you ask me, is our relationship normal today? My answer to you is no, it is not. And it cannot be normal, if the situation in the border areas is abnormal. And surely the presence of a large number of troops there, in contravention of agreements is abnormality.

The second issue, how hopeful am I? Well, you know, we've had, I mean, Minister Wang Yi and I, myself, we've had meetings before, and there have been talks in parallel, not only the senior military commanders, but also we've had, I think, eight meetings of the WMCC, which is the working mechanism dealing with this issue. So they have made considerable progress. I don't dispute that. In fact, I welcome that. But they haven't sorted out the issue in entirety. So, our effort is today to sort out the issue in entirety and deal with the disengagement. So that it then allows us to look at the de-escalation possibilities.

Regarding Ukraine, well, I would say my most, sort of, accurate characterization would be that, you know, Mr. Wang Yi presented the Chinese understanding, the Chinese view of the situation developed there and the developments pertaining to it, and I presented the Indian view. I think, the Indian view, many of you may have heard me speak about it yesterday in Parliament as well. And obviously what he said was his view and what I said was my view, but where we had a common element was that both of us agreed on the importance of an immediate ceasefire, as well as a return to diplomacy and dialogue.

Insofar as Aapka jo sawal tha ki Quad ka Vishay, hamare talks mein unhone baat uthayi ya nahin? Nahin baat nahin uthi. Toh Quad pe koi baatchit nahin hui. (Answered in Hindi; approximate Translation) Your question was whether he raised the topic of Quad in our talks or not? No, it was not raised. So, there was no conversation on Quad.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Sir, we will take other questions.

Akhilesh Suman: Sir, I’m Akhilesh Suman from Sansad TV. Before coming to India, Mr. Wang Yi, had made a statement about Jammu and Kashmir that was very objectionable from our point of view. So, did you raise this question to him that when we don't talk about Tibet and other issues inside China, why does he raise such issues? And did you raise the issue of situation in Indo Pacific also to him?

Mukesh Kaushik: Sir, this is Mukesh Kaushik from Dainik Bhaskar. After three hours of talk with Mr. Wang, how hopeful you are that Prime Minister Modi would be able to visit Beijing for BRICS summit. And did he extend an invitation for Mr. Modi to come to BRICS?

Sidhant: Sir, Sidhant from WION. The question is - was terrorism emanating from Pakistan discussed during the talks today? Also has the Chinese side extended invite for the meeting they're hosting on Afghanistan, the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Beijing?

Maha Siddiqui: Maha Siddiqui from CNN News 18. Sir, the visit was significant since you've already laid out the details for us. Why was it then not announced before he came here? And has any timeline been set for disengagement and de-escalation so that the Prime Minister can then engage at his level at the BRICS summit?

Dr. S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister: So Akhilesh Ji, your question - did the issue of what Mr. Wang Yi said at the OIC conference come up? Yes, it did. I referred to it. I explained to him why we found that statement objectionable. So, it was a subject discussed at some length. There was a larger context as well. You know, I conveyed that we hoped that China would follow an independent policy in respect of India, and not allow its policies to be influenced by other countries and other relationships. So that was that context.

Indo Pacific? No, again, I mean, I referred previously to the Quad question, but Indo Pacific itself didn't come up in our discussions. Then, regarding the visit, the question of invitation to the BRICS - Yes, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and I discussed the Chinese chairing of the BRICS and they spoke obviously about hosting a summit at which they would like naturally the participation of all the leaders. But that was in response to the last question, which I think Maha Siddiqui raised. That was a discussion, there was a parallel but separate discussion in regard to sorting out the situation in the border areas. Regarding Sidhant, your question on terrorism from Pakistan - it did come up, in terms of my sharing with him, what is the Indian view of the concerns that we have in respect of Pakistan and, of course, what were some of the positions taken during the OIC meeting. On the Afghanistan meeting, which the Chinese are convening, which I believe - No, they have not invited us. The question on the visit itself - typically, to announce a visit, it's done by mutual convenience and for whatever reason, the Chinese did not want this set of visits which Mr. Wang Yi did, to be announced earlier. So since we did not have mutual agreement, we did not make our announcement.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much, Sir, for taking the time to answer the questions. I appreciate Sir. Also thank you, Foreign Secretary Sir, for your presence as well as Additional Secretary, East Asia. Thank you all for joining. Good afternoon.

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