New Delhi: The tension building between India and China since May at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh is “highly dangerous” for the world and both sides need to “ease” it, said German Ambassador to India Walter J. Lindner.
In an interview to ThePrint, the German envoy said India and China are the two “biggest countries on the planet” that are standing against each other, which does not augur well for the world.
“We are worried… It’s the two biggest nations on the planet that are standing opposite each other. There’s not only 1.4 billion people on both sides, but they are also nuclear powers. It’s the elephant and the dragon,” Lindner told ThePrint.
The German envoy added, “It’s best if the elephant and dragon sit together and find solutions to this. It’s very highly dangerous. It’s not something that should be taken light-heartedly. But we have some confidence on both sides that there should be some politicians who take into account and take necessary steps to ease tensions.”
India and China have been locked in a border standoff since May this year. On 15 June, for the first time in the last 45 years, troops on both sides of the LAC in Ladakh had a violent face-off, which claimed the lives of 20 Indian soldiers.
Fresh clashes once again broke out on the intervening night of 29 August and 30 August as well as on 31 August.
Linder said: “I am hoping they find ways to ease the tensions. With a clash and confrontation there, this is of no interest to anybody and it has the danger of becoming a bigger conflict and the last thing we need in this world is more conflicts. We need less conflicts and that’s why we need to do all we can to help get this number down,” he added.
‘Bully countries shouldn’t have their way’
Earlier this week, Germany became the second country after France to unveil a specific policy on their Indo-Pacific strategy.
It was released by their foreign minister Heiko Maas on 2 September after the German cabinet adopted the German government’s policy guidelines on the Indo-Pacific region.
Earlier this week, Maas made it clear to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who was on a trip to Europe, that his country and others in the region will not tolerate any “threats” and expect “respect” from international partners.
“We did not beat around the bush when he (Chinese foreign minister) was visiting Europe. We had made it clear what our opinion was. The language was very clear,” he said.
According to the German envoy, although Berlin’s Indo-Pacific strategy is not aimed at any one country, it will also give out a signal to “bully and hegemonic” countries that they will have to follow a rule-based international order.
“The Indo-Pacific region has become important economically and politically for several reasons. It’s a place where almost half of the world’s population and 40 per cent of the global GDP is produced. You have challenges also here — you have nuclear powers here from India to Pakistan, to China, North Korea and others, you have border disputes and a lot of other challenges,” he stressed.
“We need rules-based multilateral cooperation. There is no way that bully countries or hegemonic countries should have their way. The stronger should not have their way. It’s important to have rules in the Indo-Pacific region, which are based on international agreements and be democratic like India and others,” he asserted.
However, he did mention that China is a “huge factor” in world politics and in the economy.
“One has to talk, one has to talk with each other than about each other… With China, we have rivalry in political systems. We are not enemies but rivals, competitors in our political systems, we have different systems, but it doesn’t prevent us from trading,” he said.
Germany, which is presently holding the EU’s presidency, also plans to hold a EU-China summit.
‘Germany is facing repercussions as a trading nation’
According to Lindner, who was the state secretary to the Federal Foreign Office in Germany before coming to India, the increasing challenges and rising tensions in the Indo-Pacific is impacting Germany as well.
“We, as Germany, feel the repercussions of all of these as we are one of the main trading nations… This strategy is an expression of diversification. We have to have a multipolar system where not one ruler dominates the area just because they are big. It’s not directed against any nation,” he said.
Lindner highlighted the need to have alternative supply chains after the pandemic and that countries now cannot afford to depend on only one country.
“The pandemic showed our dependence on global supply chains and we have to reduce our dependence on just one country or countries. We have to open up. That’s what India is also doing. We need to diversify our supply mechanisms. The pandemic has highlighted how much we depend on each other, on free trade and on a stable environment,” he added.
Countries such as Japan, Australia, India as well as the ASEAN region are working out a minilateral, or small groupings of like-minded countries, to establish their own supply chain networks, with an objective to bypass China.
“The world has 90 per cent of trade on ships, that’s why it’s important to keep the (shipping) line open and free them from piracy and other threats,” Lindner added.