External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Wednesday that it is in the mutual interest of India and China to find a way to accommodate each other because of the whole idea of the rise of Asia, which is contingent on the biggest economies of the continent getting along with each other.

Mr Jaishankar, who is in New York to attend the annual UN General Assembly session, made the remarks while replying to a question on the rise of China and India amidst their border standoff during his interaction with the audience at Columbia University here.

“In our times, the biggest change we have seen in the world is the rise of China, no question about it,” he said, adding that what this has done is that because of the comparison, “it has, in a sense, mitigated somewhat the dramatic rise of India.” He said one evaluates India on its own merits, how much it has progressed, the growth rate which is fantastic, “but then you have China which has risen faster, more dramatically in the same time.”

“The issue for us today is how do two rising powers in absolute proximity to each other find a modus vivendi in a dynamic situation. That’s a very, very complex problem. In history, there are very few analogous situations. Powers have arisen with a gap or with a geographical space. It’s easier to deal with that kind of situation,” he said.

“The rise of Asia is contingent on the two biggest economies of Asia getting along with each other, or the three biggest economies of Asia getting along with each other,” the minister said.

To a question on when a Chinese consulate in Chennai will be established, he said that “to be very honest, there was a time when we were thinking of expanding our respective consular presences. I do not recollect a recent conversation. But in any case at this point of time, very frankly, I think it’s important for our relationship with China to come back to normal. So I think that’s where our focus is. The relationship, as I keep telling people, is not normal, for reasons which all of you know.” Mr Jaishankar also said that managing China has not been easy, reassuring Russia has not been easy and these are the natural challenges in a changing world.

“…It’s not been easy. Managing China hasn’t been easy, reassuring Russia hasn’t been easy, getting Japan into play hasn’t been easy. Those are the natural challenges of a changing world,” Jaishankar said during a conversation with Columbia University Professor & former Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog Arvind Panagariya.

Mr Jaishankar was responding to a question by Panagariya, who referred to the minister’s book in which he wrote “this is a time for us to engage America, manage China, cultivate Europe, reassure Russia, bring Japan into play.” He said that over the years, “we have had challenges in the Indo-Pacific, we have had challenges in Eurasia. We have tried to effectively address both. We are today seen even more strongly than before as speaking up for the interest of the global South. but we have also seen as actually a deeply democratic power which has underlined the values, the relevance of democracy.” On non-alignment, he said the world today requires independent countries, independent-minded countries that take positions.

“My sense is that politics of the last six months has shown that there is a space out there for countries who are not part of a very polarized scenario.”

His remarks came a week after Indian and Chinese armies carried out a joint verification of the disengagement process at PP-15 in the Gogra-Hotsprings area in eastern Ladakh after withdrawing their troops and dismantling temporary infrastructure from the friction point in the middle of this month.

The eastern Ladakh border standoff erupted on May 5, 2020, following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas.

Both sides gradually enhanced their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers and heavy weaponry.

As a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides completed the disengagement process last year on the north and south banks of the Pangong lake and in the Gogra area.

The disengagement at the Pangong Lake area took place in February last year while the withdrawal of troops and equipment in Patrolling Point 17 (A) in Gogra took place in August last year.

Last month, Mr Jaishankar said in Bangkok that the relationship between India and China is going through an “extremely difficult phase” after what Beijing has done at the border and emphasised that the Asian Century will not happen if the two neighbours could not join hands.

Responding to a question, Mr Jaishankar had said that the Asian Century will happen when China and India come together but the Asian Century will be difficult to happen if India and China could not come together.