India Must Make Sure There is no Repeat of Doklam Standoff, Says Ex-foreign Secretary

New Delhi: The resolution of the Doklam gap has been satisfactory for India, but a similar situation may not have a similar end, says former Foreign Minister Shyam Saran. In a powerful conversation with Anubha Bhonsle, CNN-News18’s Saran, whose book “How India Lives the World” was published on Thursday by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he said India should be both cautious and firm in its ties with China. “The lesson we should not take is that we are able to handle it,” he said, adding that the government must be relieved, stagnation has not yet increased. Here are excerpts from the conversation with Shyam Saran, who was also Prime Minister Manmohan Singh special envoy on nuclear issues and climate change. Saran: My own view is that this was intended to convince Bhutan that it should go ahead with the border agreement between the two countries that worked for a while. Bhutan did not accept the terms proposed by China. China, as you know, was interested in establishing diplomatic relations and in trade with Bhutan.

My sense is that the question of Doklam has been an impetus for China not to advance. Maybe there was a side advantage in terms of China’s relations with India as well, but I do not think that was the main objective. And I think the very strong and vitriolic reaction was the element of surprise, because they did not expect this kind of confrontation with the Indian forces in the territory of Bhutan. From the point of view of India, it was a satisfactory spread of the situation, since we wanted a restoration of the status quo. In addition, the calendar of summits of the BRICS assured that the interest of China was that there was no disagreement. The important result of the Xiamen meeting is that we can be encouraged and hopeful. Anubha: Since the separation, it was supposed to be due to resolute resolution and diplomacy. And there is an underlying assumption that we can do it again if there is a Saran conflict: I do not think we should do that. We must be relieved because it could have increased. We must try to make sure we do not have to deal with a similar situation. We must not assume that we can solve it.

We must consider the fact that the context in which we deal with relations with China has changed. When I used to negotiate on climate change, our ally was China. Ten years later, when the Paris agreement is reached, the United States and China have their model. We must handle this relationship with a certain caution and firmness. This is something that needs constant attention. The lesson we should not draw is that we are capable of handling it. We must manage our border infrastructure well or we would not be able to treat it as well as we should. Anubha: What worries you about irritants and problems and what should we pay attention to? Saran: Take the example of the NSG problem. Above all, we wanted to thank you for the resignation. It would be important to have a membership. If the problems do not come from the Chinese opposition, this should not become a critical problem in our relationship with them. The list of terrorist groups in the UN is more of a problem for China because they are seen as opposing the fight against terrorism around the world.

I am very encouraged by the meeting and the statement. It is a complex relationship. There have always been elements of cooperation and confrontation. The challenge now is how we raise the importance of the areas where we have a common interest and how to minimize the possibility that some controversial issues will become bigger than life. Anubha: Is there a substantial difference in the way this government looks at Beijing from the previous regime? Saran: Every government has its own style. Modi believes that the personal leader of leadership relationships plays a very important role. In addition, there is more vigorous research and more attention to economic problems. Much of India’s foreign policy is continuity. The parameters have not changed much, but international problems continue to evolve and we must adapt to change. The basic foreign policy has been consistent.

Saran: Pakistan is a big challenge. We must leave the pattern of dialogue, disturbance, dialogue, disturbance. Whatever the problems, commitment to Pakistan is important precisely because it has major problems. Not only must we have pressure points to change this strategic calculation in Islamabad, but at the same time we must make sure that the assets we are dealing with in Pakistan, such as trading or treating people to relationships with people, is not affected . If the Pakistani actors want to come, welcome them, if the authors want to come, then why not. It must be a two-way approach. They need resources in terms of care to support the kind of commitment we need. But Pakistan should not take the attention we should give to all neighbors.

Saran: I think we have done well to say that we remain committed to the Paris agreement. I think we forget that India has a good story to tell in terms of global energy. The PM has made a personal commitment to the international network of solar or technological renewal. These are important initiatives. The energy consumption of India is decreasing. It is important to note that. Even historically, we have always seen the feeding of nature and not a dark force to conquer. Saran: Nuclear doctrine has served us well and has strengthened our nuclear capabilities. If doctrine changes, the infrastructure of the strategic nuclear program will also have to change. It is necessary and has served us well to repair things.

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