External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday outlined eight broad principles and three “Mutuals” to mend strained ties between India and China, and said the two countries are truly at crossroads and their choices will have profound repercussions, not just for them but for the entire world

Addressing an online conference organised by the Institute of Chinese Studies, Jaishankar said the developments in eastern Ladakh last year brought the relationship under “exceptional stress” and India is yet to receive a credible explanation for the change in China’s stance or reasons for amassing troops in border areas.

The two countries are locked in a military standoff in eastern Ladakh since May 5, 2020.

The eight principles listed by Jaishankar to take bilateral ties forward include strict adherence to all agreements on border management, fully respecting the Line of Actual Control (LAC), making peace and tranquillity along the frontier the basis for overall ties, recognising that a multipolar Asia is an essential constituent of a multipolar world, and managing differences effectively.

He mentioned the three “Mutuals” as mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests and described them as determining factors for the ties. He noted that as rising powers, each country will have its own set of aspirations, and their pursuit cannot be ignored.

Some “events” before 2020 reflect “duality” of cooperation and competition. Minister S Jaishankar referred to China blocking at the UN the listing of Pakistani terrorists involved in attacks on India, and Beijing's opposition to New Delhi's membership of the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group and for a permanent seat in UN Security Council. Although common membership of plurilateral groups was a meeting point, yet when it came to interests and aspirations, some divergences were apparent, Jaishankar said.

“Any expectation that they can be brushed aside, and that life can carry on undisturbed despite the situation at the border, that is simply not realistic,” Jaishankar said, delivering the keynote address at the 13th All-India Conference of China Studies.

In a criticism of Beijing, he said the developments in eastern Ladakh have “profoundly disturbed” the relationship because they not only signalled a “disregard” for commitments about minimising troop levels, but also showed a willingness to breach peace and tranquillity.

“Significantly, to date, we have yet to receive a credible explanation for the change in China’s stance or reasons for massing of troops in the border areas. It is a different matter that our own forces have responded appropriately and held their own in very challenging circumstances,” he said. “The issue before us is what the Chinese posture signals, how it evolves, and what implications it may have for the future of our ties.”

Giving a clear perspective of India’s approach in dealing with China, the External Affairs Minister said that development of ties can only be based on “mutuality”, whether it is the immediate concerns or more distant prospects.

Jaishankar said there was increasing construction of border infrastructure by the Chinese side but noted that there may have been more efforts by India to reduce this very considerable gap since 2014, including greater budget commitments and a better road building record. “Nevertheless, the infrastructure differential remains significant and, as we saw last year, consequential,” he added.