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12 Jul 2017

'Test of maturity' signal on China - Foreign secretary confident of diplomatic solution; Sushma meets exiled leader in message to Iran

Jaishankar
TT, New Delhi. July 11: India and China can resolve their current stand-off near the tri-junction with Bhutan the way they have settled past differences along their unsettled border, foreign secretary S. Jaishankar suggested today, blunting rising rhetoric from Beijing over the spat.
But Jaishankar, who was speaking in Singapore on the 25th anniversary of India's relations with the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), also reminded China of a June "consensus" between their leaders to not allow "differences to become disputes".
The comments from the foreign secretary, the senior-most Indian official to speak on the border tensions, followed an address during which he iterated New Delhi's broader concerns with key aspects of its relationship with Beijing, yet also called ties "multi-faceted".
Asked about the stand-off in territory disputed by China and Bhutan - which turned to India for help - Jaishankar suggested he remained confident of a diplomatic resolution, while acknowledging that the tensions represented a "test of maturity" for New Delhi and Beijing.
"How you handle it is a test of our maturity," Jaishankar said. "I see no reason, having handled so many situations in the past that we will not handle this."
The face-off on a plateau in what is called Doklam by Bhutan, Doko La by India and Donglang by China is the longest involving Indian and Chinese troops in three decades.
That region, near where Sikkim meets Bhutan and Tibet, has stayed relatively quiet even when tensions have flared up elsewhere along the India-China border.
Bhutan has accused China of building a road in what is disputed territory between them, and of thereby trying to alter the "status quo". China has insisted the region is its territory. India has argued that its help was sought by Bhutan and that a Chinese road so close to the "chicken's neck" - the thin strip connecting the rest of India to its Northeast - would constitute a security threat.
Jaishankar called India's interests "legitimate" but added that it was "not the first time" the neighbours had bickered along their border. He insisted that "no part of the border has been agreed on the ground" - challenging Beijing's insistence on an 1890 Sino-British treaty that claimed the Sikkim-Tibet border as settled.
But Jaishankar also referred to a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Astana last month, on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit.
There, the foreign secretary recalled today, Modi and Xi "reached consensus" that "at a time of global uncertainty, India-China relations are a factor of stability," and that "India and China must not allow differences to become disputes".
Then, almost in a message to China, Jaishankar added: "This consensus underlines the strategic maturity with which the two countries must continue to approach each other."

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