India has a difficult relationship with China but it is "perfectly capable" of managing it, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Friday, rejecting the European construct that New Delhi's position on Ukraine could impact global support to it if its problems with Beijing increases.
Jaishankar asserted that there was no correlation between India's position on Ukraine and its issues with China, adding the "Chinese don't need a precedent somewhere else in the world on how to engage us, or not engage us or be difficult with us, or not be difficult with us".
In an interactive session at a conference in the Slovakian capital Bratislava, Jaishankar said Europe has to grow out of the mindset that its problems are the world's problems but the world's problems are not Europe's problems.
The strong comments by Jaishankar came amid persistent efforts by the European countries to convince India to take a tougher position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine with the argument that New Delhi could face increasing challenges from China in the future.
"In terms of the connection you are making, we have a difficult relationship with China and we are perfectly capable of managing it. If I get global understanding and support, obviously it is of help to me," Jaishankar said.
"But this idea that I do a transaction — I come in one conflict because it will help me in conflict two — that's not how the world works. A lot of our problems in China have nothing to do with Ukraine and have nothing to do with Russia. They pre-date it," he said.
Jaishankar was asked why he thinks anyone will help New Delhi in case of a problem with China after it did not help others on Ukraine.
"Somewhere Europe has to grow out of the mindset that Europe's problems are the world's problems but the world's problems are not Europe's problems. That if it is you, it's yours, if it is me it is ours. I see reflections of that," he said.
Asked about the US and China axes and which one India will prefer, the external affairs ministers said it was not necessary for India to join any axis.
"I don't think it's necessary for me to join this axis or not, and if I am not joining this, I must be with the other one. I don't accept that," he said.
He said is India has one-fifth of the world population, it is the fifth or sixth-largest economy, and it is entitled to have its own side, weigh its own interests and take positions based on its interests.
Jaishankar said a linkage is being made between China and India and what is happening in Ukraine.
"China and India happened way before anything happened in Ukraine. The Chinese do not need a precedent somewhere else on how to engage us or not engage us or be difficult with us or not be difficult with us," he said.
"I see this as frankly a not very clever argument, a very self-serving one. India will choose after weighing the situation," he said.
Jaishankar said Europe was also silent on many developments in Asia.
"If I were to take Europe collectively which has been singularly silent on many things which were happening, for example in Asia, you could ask why would anybody in Asia trust Europe on anything at all," he said.
Jaishankar said India condemned the killings in Bucha in Ukraine and favoured an investigation into it as well.
"First of all you are mischaracterising our position, for example when Bucha happened, we condemned Bucha and we actually asked for an investigation into Bucha," he said in reply to a question.
"In terms of what is happening with the Ukraine conflict, our position is very clear that we favour an immediate cessation of hostilities. It's not that we have ignored it unless you call phone calls to (Vladimir) Putin and (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy as ignoring something," he added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made phone calls to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy and Russian President Putin on the crisis.
On China, Jaishankar said India is going through a particularly difficult patch in its relationship with China.
In a reference to the eastern Ladakh row, he said, "We had differences in the past but we've never had a situation...after 1962, where agreements on not bringing forces to the border have been disregarded."
"A very large number of forces have been brought to the border, we have had a clash, people have died and this happened...two years ago," he said.
He said it is a "useful reminder" to Europe that there were other things happening in the rest of the world to which Europe perhaps doesn't pay enough attention.
Jaishankar said the conflict in Ukraine is creating a huge fuel crisis, food crisis, and fertiliser crisis, triggering inflation in low-income societies.
"Ukraine is a major concern because of the interconnected nature of the world," he said.
Jaishankar said the conflict in Ukraine has to end, a set of people have to engage the players and there must be a collective interest to find resolution, adding that "people will need us".
Asked whether India is sitting on the fence on key global matters, he said: "I don't think we're sitting on the fence just because I don't agree with you."
He said India has been part of addressing all big challenges like climate change, green technology and combating terrorism. He said a lot is happening outside Europe and that the world can't be as Euro-centric as in the past.