External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday took a strong position on the Sino-India border row and asserted any unilateral attempts to change the Line of Actual Control (LAC) will not be "countenanced" by India, and insisted that the ongoing problem was a fallout of the neighbour occupying strategic areas in 1962. The Union minister's response came while answering a query seeking India's official position with regard to former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi's tweet claiming there was "increasing Chinese infiltration" into Indian territory.
He also said India was globally viewed as a compassionate nation, when asked if its image has changed to intolerant. "As to what has happened in the last two years, we have been very clear and very effective in ensuring that no attempt to change the status quo unilaterally on the Line of Actual Control will be countenanced by us," Jaishankar said at a "Meet the Press" event here.
He added efforts were on to resolve the boundary issues between the two countries through discussions involving their military commanders and diplomats. Jaishankar said the border issues with the eastern neighbour were largely due to the Chinese occupying large parts of India, including Ladakh in 1962-- during Congress rule.
Taking a dig at Gandhi, he said, "I did not see anything particularly new in what his tweet said, because you all know that a large part of the problem we have on the boundary is because in 1962, the Chinese came and occupied large areas, including Ladakh." "Many of these are strategic areas which obviously create challenges for our border forces," Jaishankar added.
The minister said that at the moment discussions were going on between the two sides involving military commanders and also diplomats. "These (discussions) relate to friction points where we are very very closely deployed vis-a-vis each other and the focus is to see whether disengagement at these friction points was possible. In the last year there has been very substantial disengagement. There are still some issues...there are ongoing discussions. I have myself raised the issue with the Chinese Foreign Minister when I met him in Bali (G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting)," Jaishankar said.
"So, I think we have been very clear and very open about it. So, I really don't know what the confusion is," he added. Gandhi in his tweet had alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was afraid of China, hides the truth from the public, just protects his own image, lowers the morale of the Army and plays with the security of the country.
On whether the China-Pakistan maritime exercises -- Sea Guardians -- pose a threat to the Indian maritime security, the minister said security was always given a priority and was at the top of the country's foreign policy. "So, whenever we feel the country's security interests are in some way affected, we will do whatever we feel is necessary, whatever we feel is possible to ensure our security."
"We have demonstrated that in different situations. In some respects, you saw that in Uri and Balakot. You have also seen that even on the LAC with China where even in the middle of covid-19 in 2020, we actually sent an enormous number of troops up there to effectively defend the LAC," he said. Jaishankar said India was aware of the maritime activity in the seas and oceans south of it and keeps track of the same.
"We do whatever we feel are the countermeasures we need to do," the minister said. On whether India's image abroad has changed from one of compassionate and gentle to intolerant, Jaishankar said it was not true. He said India is still seen as a compassionate nation in view of its actions during the covid-19 pandemic when even while dealing with the domestic challenges, it was providing vaccines to countries which were finding it difficult to access them.
The minister further said India is also seen as a country which is capable of taking care of its own people, as seen during the Ukraine-Russia war when it safely evacuated almost all of its students from the war zone. On the controversial remarks by expelled BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma, Jaishankar said while there was some concern among the Arab nations initially, once the Indian government clarified its stand, they saw the truth. "We have good relations with the Gulf nations and they have faith in our government," he added.
(With PTI Inputs)