External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar (PTI)
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar (PTI)

It is in common interest of India and China to have good ties: S Jaishankar

  • Jaishankar also described ties with Pakistan as difficult
  • India and China are seen are strategic rivals, given their competition for resources and influence in many regions across the world

NEW DELHI : Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar has said it was in the common interest of India and China to develop a good relationship, adding that ties between the two countries would have elements of collaboration and competition.

In an interview to the French Le Monde newspaper, Jaishankar also described ties with Pakistan as difficult because "Pakistan has developed an important terrorist industry and sends terrorists to India to carry out attacks."

The interview was released by the Indian foreign ministry on Friday.

"In world affairs, we find a very interesting mix of competition and collaboration. Competition because each country, in a common space, looks for what is best for itself," Jaishankar said when asked if China was a rival to India. "But if there is only pure competition, there is no international order. So, everyone also cooperates so that an ' he said adding: "We are two great countries and it is in our common interest to have good relationships."

India and China are seen are strategic rivals, given their competition for resources and influence in many regions across the world but particularly in the Indo-Pacific region. The two countries are, however, also known to cooperate in multilateral fora on issues like climate change for example.

In the bilateral space, there have been tensions between the two because of an unsettled border dispute dating back to 1962. India is wary of China’s ties with Pakistan and Beijing looks views with suspicion India's ties with the US and Japan. Since last year, India and China have started the practice of holding informal summits that has set ties on a new trajectory.

On Pakistan, Jaishankar said ties have been "difficult" for many years and this was because of Pakistan's support for terrorism against India. "Pakistan itself does not deny this situation. Now, tell me: which country would be willing to talk and negotiate with a neighbour who openly practices terrorism against it?" the minister said. "We need actions that demonstrate a real willingness to cooperate. For example, there are Indians wanted for terrorist activities living in Pakistan. We are telling Pakistan: hand them over to us."

On the situation in Kashmir, the minister said the measures in place since August, including restrictions on communication, movement of people and detention of local politicians, "were taken because of the danger of violent reactions from radical and separatist elements."

"These restrictions have been gradually reduced, and as the situation normalize, telephone and mobile lines have been restored, shops are open and the apple harvest is under way. The situation is back to normal," he said.

India on 5 August revoked the special status granted to Kashmir under a temporary provision in its constitution and divided the state into two union territories. New Delhi had imposed some restrictions, including a clampdown on communications, to prevent large scale unrest in the region that is in the grip of an insurgency fomented by Pakistan.

When asked if foreign journalists will be allowed to travel to the region, Jaishankar said he could not commit to a deadline, "but as soon as it is safe, they can go. We don't want their presence to provoke problems - from people who would take advantage of it to show that there is unrest."

To a question on the perception of Modi as a nationalist leader, Jaishankar said the definition of nationalist varied from country to country. "In the United States, it has an isolationist connotation. In Asia, at least in India, nationalism is a positive word. Nationalists have stood up against colonization, against the domination of the West. There is much to be done with the restoration of identity, of cultural trust. So yes, there is a sense of nationalism in our country. They say that the country is doing well, not only are we better perceived, but we can do more for the world. In India, a good nationalist is an internationalist, it is not contradictory. The problem is that you apply your concepts to us."

When asked if the sense of nationalism was causing tensions with the Muslim community in India, Jaishankar said it is the country that defines nationality, not religion or caste. "In Europe, the link between language, religion and nationality is stronger. The concept of nation is different. In India, we are in a sense a civilization state, with natural, linguistic, ethnic and religious diversity. We have never considered uniformity as a necessity or an aspiration."