India’s relation with neighbouring countries, including China, has not deteriorated recently, the Centre said today in response to a question in parliament in the middle of a months-long face-off with China and the recent differences with Nepal on the boundary issue. The government had also said no infiltration was reported along the India-China border in the last six months, in what is seen as an attempt to play down the situation at the border.
In response to Trinamool Congress member Sougata Ray’s question whether bilateral ties with neighbouring countries like Nepal, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Myanmar have deteriorated recently, junior foreign minister V Muraleedharan had clearly responded “No”.
Mr Ray had also asked two other supplementary questions: Whether China is keeping good relations with any of the five countries mentioned, and the steps taken for cordial relations with neighbouring countries.
Mr Muraleedharan responded that “India’s relations with other countries stand on their own footing and are independent of the relations of those countries with third countries”. The government accords the “highest priority” to India’s relations with neighbouring countries.
“India is an active political and economic partner of its neighbours and s involved in various projects, including development projects with these countries. India also has extensive education, culture, trade and investment linkages with neighbouring countries,” his answer read.
The minister’s response comes amid a sharp dip in the situation at the Line of Actual Control — the de facto border between the two countries — with repeated transgressions and violent face-offs, one of which turned fatal. On June 15, 20 Indian soldiers died in action at Galwan Valley — a first in more than 40 years.
In his statement to the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, Union Minister Rajnath Singh had issued what was seen as a clear warning to China, saying India is “very serious about issues of sovereignty” and the country is prepared for “all contingencies” to ensure that it is maintained.
China has mobilised a huge number of army battalions and armaments along the LAC and inner areas. There are “many friction points in eastern Ladakh, Gogra, Kongka La, Pangong Lake’s north and south banks. The Indian army has made counter deployments in these areas,” Mr Singh said.
But he also spoke of the joint goal of the two nations to resolve the issue and have “peaceful relations”.
“While no one should doubt our determination to safeguard our borders, India believes that mutual respect and mutual sensitivity are the basis for peaceful relations with neighbours. As we want to resolve the current situation through dialogue, we have maintained diplomatic and military engagement with the Chinese side,” he said.