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China concurs with Indian FM’s ‘Asian century’ remarks, but sidesteps his border settlement precondition

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(TibetanReview.net, Aug20’22) – China has on Aug 19 somewhat concurred with India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s observation that an “Asian century” cannot happen if his country and China don’t join hands but sidestepped the latter’s contention that settling the border dispute, especially the ongoing faceoff across the eastern Ladakh border, is a condition precedent for bringing this about. Rather, it has reiterated its emphasize that the two sides have “far more common interests than differences”.

Responding to a series of questions after delivering a lecture on “India’s vision of the Indo-Pacific” at the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok on Aug 18, Jaishankar had said the relationship between the two Asian giants was going through an “extremely difficult phase” after what Beijing had done at the Ladakh border in 2020 and emphasised that the “Asian century” would not happen if the two neighbours don’t join hands.

Responding to it, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin has told journalists in Beijing: “As a Chinese leader put it, ‘unless China and India are developed, there will be no Asian Century. No genuine Asia-Pacific century or Asian century can come until China, India and other neighbouring countries are developed’.

“China and India are two ancient civilisations, two major emerging economies and two neighbouring countries, we have far more common interests than differences. Both sides have the wisdom and capability to help each other succeed instead of undercutting each other.”

Indian and Chinese troops are engaged in a prolonged standoff in eastern Ladakh. The two sides have so far held 16 rounds of Corps Commander level talks in attempts to resolve the standoff which erupted on May 5, 2020, following a violent clash in the Pangong Lake area, noted the PTI news agency Aug 20.

India has expressed disappointment at China’s lack of seriousness to resolve the border issue owing to its unwillingness to restore the status quo ante by withdrawing from new areas it occupied that year.

India has in recent months brushed aside China’s long-stated contention that the two sides have “far more common interests than differences” and that the border issue need not stand in the way of normalizing relations between the two sides. Rather, it has been consistently maintaining that peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) were key for the overall development of bilateral ties.

China has sought to downplay the border situation, even though the two sides are on a warlike situation on the eastern Ladakh border, with Wang saying, “China and India maintain smooth communication over the boundary question. And our dialogue is effective.”

“China and India are not each other’s threats, but cooperation partners and development opportunities bring China-India relations back to the track of steady and sound development at an early date and safeguard the common interests of China, India and our fellow developing countries,” he has said.

On Jaishankar’s Asian century remarks, Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University here, has told China’s official Global Times newspaper that the expression “Asian century” had served as a driving force for China and India to normalise and strengthen their relations since 1988, and India’s external affairs minister’s use of the term in stressing the need for a friendly bilateral relationship was worth praising.

The expression “Asian century” was stated to have been first used by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. In 1988, when he met with then Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi, he pointed out that unless the two countries (China and India) are developed, there will be no Asian century, Qian has said.

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