'If the Chinese were keen to mend fences with India, they would merely have to withdraw their troops in Eastern Ladakh.'
'They have not done so and they have not said that they will do so.'
"We need to give some thought to how we can raise the economic costs to China for their military action in Eastern Ladakh. It may produce short term pain in India, but I have absolutely no doubt that strong actions by us in the economic area will lead to long term gain," says Gautam Bambawale, India's former ambassador to China, Pakistan and Bhutan.
In an e-mail interview with Rediff.com's Archana Masih, the diplomat-thinker warns that India should not expect a breakthrough in Ladakh soon and should stick to its position through thick or thin.
The first part of a must-read interview
In your assessment, what could be the reason for the Chinese foreign minister coming to New Delhi for talks? After two years of the military standoff in Ladakh? Has the Indian stand on the Russian invasion of Ukraine have any part to play in this?
The reason is really very simple. China's position on the Eastern Ladakh issue is that the border situation should be kept separate from the rest of the relationship.
On the other hand, the Indian position is diametrically opposite -- that without peace on our borders the rest of the relationship cannot be normal and will in fact get negatively impacted.
Now, if you are the Chinese side, you will pay a visit to New Delhi and have talks on all kinds of issues to exactly show that despite the situation on the border in Eastern Ladakh, visits like that of the FM and discussions on all sorts of issues are going on.
By doing so, you are proving your position to be the practical one which is actually being followed. I am glad that EAM Dr Jaishankar briefed the media himself after the visit and clearly stated that a clear and tough line had been conveyed to Wang Yi that without a peaceful border there can be no normality in ties between India and China.
We must stick to this position come thick and thin. China must restore the status quo ante in eastern Ladakh.
Are the Chinese keen to mend fences with India because they would like to blunt the global condemnation of their all out support to Russia on the Ukraine war?
If, in fact, the Chinese were keen to mend fences with India, they would merely have to withdraw their troops in Eastern Ladakh.
They have not done so and they have not said that they will do so. So, I do not see the Chinese as wanting to mend fences with India.
Remember, actions speak louder than words. We should judge the Chinese by their actions and not by their words. And their actions so far over the past two years have been -- to violate agreements with India on maintaining peace and tranquility on our borders by moving large numbers of troops there and carrying out the actions they have done with those troops.
Has the Indian Army's strong response in Ladakh forced the Chinese to rethink whatever objectives it set off to achieve in Ladakh? Two years later, do you have a better idea of what the Chinese want to achieve militarily in Ladakh?
There is absolutely no doubt that the Indian Army has responded strongly in east Ladakh. However, as I said earlier, I don't see the Chinese as having a rethink of their military actions.
So the situation is going to continue for some more time.
As a nation, India should be ready to face down China. We need to give some thought to how we can raise the economic costs to China for their military action in eastern Ladakh.
It may produce short term pain in India, but I have absolutely no doubt that strong actions by us say in the economic area will lead to long term gain.
Let me also add, that we in India should not be expecting any kind of quick breakthrough in Ladakh.
If we do so, we shall only be putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves. We have to continue our actions in a long term frame of mind.
Some retired generals who have served in the Ladakh theatre have told me that the military talks have reached a dead end and it will take high level diplomacy to untangle the knots to revert to the April 2020 status quo ante in Ladakh.
Do you think with the hard hit that India-China relations have taken in the last 24 months, can diplomacy achieve a breakthrough?
I am afraid it is wrong to think in this manner. The way your question has been framed, it appears as if the onus of achieving a diplomatic breakthrough is on us.
This is a fallacy. It is the Chinese side which have violated agreements between our two countries by moving large numbers of troops to the borders in Eastern Ladakh.
The blame for the current situation is largely on them. So they should untie this knot! India has to stay strong and keep up both our military as well as diplomatic posture.
We have to remain strong over the long term and then we shall see how the Chinese respond.
Can a breakthrough only be achieved by a summit between Prime Minister Modi and General Secretary Xi on the margins of the BRICS summit in China? That is, if the prime minister decides to attend.
Look in 2018 and 2019 we had Informal Summits between the leaders of India and China.
Then in summer 2020, it was China which decided to bring that process to a halt and move their troops in large numbers to Eastern Ladakh.
Remember, such decisions are taken at the top-most levels in China. So if this was the Chinese decision -- it must have been taken at the highest level.
So, why would a summit succeed now? It is illogical to think on these lines. I would recommend that there be no physical meeting between our leaders.
If the Chinese leadership wants to convey a change in their attitude on the border, they can send such a message through their foreign minister who has just been to New Delhi. He was not carrying any such message. So we can conclude that the Chinese are not changing their position about Eastern Ladakh.
Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com