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Accept China’s new reality: Khurshid

- Beijing ‘aggressive’ but is our ‘neighbour and partner’
Salman Khurshid

New Delhi, Dec. 10: External affairs minister Salman Khurshid today said that to have a “meaningful partnership” with China, India needed to accept the “new reality” of Beijing’s presence in areas that New Delhi considers exclusive to India and its friends.

Khurshid added that no immediate result could be expected on the India-China border dispute but the two neighbours were moving in the right direction, which was “comforting for both the sides”.

On how India should manage a relationship with a rising China, the minister conceded that Beijing was “aggressive but for us it is our neighbour and partner”.

He told a seminar here: “We have to come a long, long way and more things are needed to be done. China’s richness would add to India’s strength and India’s to China’s.”

Khurshid said that as India and China moved forward in “finding resolution to the issues, and in converting their relationship into a meaningful partnership, India will have to accept the new reality of China’s presence in many areas that we consider an exclusive area for India and its friends”.

He said “the rules of the game will change” with the rise of both India and China but “China will add to the richness with its presence and participation in many areas”.

“A combination of their (India’s and China’s) strengths is called for”, which will benefit Asia as a whole.

“I believe the real praise of India’s foreign policy will come in being able to combine the strengths without targeting the aspirations of anyone else in the world.... Providing greater collaboration between the two (India and China) will define Asia’s role in the 21st century.”

The minister’s comments have come amid concern among Indian foreign policy experts over China’s increasing influence in India’s neighbourhood, including Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Experts have termed it the “string of pearls” theory, suggesting China is encircling India to restrict its access to vital sea-lanes of communication in the Indian Ocean.

Khurshid appeared to have chosen to be diplomatically ambiguous about this. Without mentioning a “string of pearls”, he said the Indian Ocean Rim countries constituted a vital part of Asia and India was “a point of pivot”.

He said many countries were “desperate” to have a closer link with the Indian Ocean, considering its importance in maritime and security issues, and China would “give its right arm to be as closely placed as India”.

“The pivot that India provides to the concept is the stepping stone for links” to other countries around it, he added.

On the border dispute, Khurshid said: “You can expect a slow but steady improvement in the overall situation. In terms of results that you get from talks, you can’t have any immediate results because it is a very complicated and sensitive area.”

National security adviser Shivshankar Menon was in China earlier this month for talks on border and other bilateral issues with his Chinese counterpart Dai Bingguo.

Khurshid defended Nehruvian foreign policy. He said that despite the “changing balance between principles and pragmatism, India’s approach to international relations — of enlightened self-interest — has survived…. (It’s) an idea articulated by India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.”

He said it was “very sad” that fewer Indians were interested in international relations today compared with three or four decades ago.

“We are (so) busy with our internal conflicts that we don’t have the time to look at international relations. We need to excite the minds of (the) Indian audience…. International relations pertain to our own welfare and our own interest.”

Later, he dismissed reports that New Delhi was considering freezing the substantial development assistance it had given to the Maldives in retaliation for Male cancelling the $500 million airport development deal with Indian firm GMR.

“I hope on behalf of India that it (the assistance) will not... be used by any fringe political group which has something to do with deterioration of relationship. I am glad that the matter seems to be proceeding along those lines that there would not be any misuse of this for political purposes,” he said.