India, China to hold commanders meet

Thursday 22nd July 2021 04:23 EDT

Indian and Chinese foreign ministers agreed to convene an early meeting of military commanders to “seek a mutually acceptable solution” to the outstanding issues on the LAC in the western sector while refraining from any unilateral action that could escalate the military stand-off. During the meeting last week, India's foreign minister S Jaishankar told his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi that troops should complete the disengagement at the LAC “at the earliest” and that the unsettled situation has cast a negative light on the entire bilateral relationship.

After an hour-long meeting between Jaishankar and Wang Yi in Dushanbe on the sidelines of an SCO meeting on Afghanistan, the Indian minister tweeted, “Highlighted that unilateral change of status quo is not acceptable. Full restoration and maintenance of peace and tranquility in border areas is essential for development of our ties.” The reiteration of the Indian position, despite the Chinese reluctance to complete disengagement in Ladakh, was reaffirmed by an official statement by the MEA which said, “there was also an understanding that both sides will continue to ensure stability on the ground and neither side will take any unilateral action that could increase tension.”

The situation remains tense in several areas in eastern Ladakh, particularly Gogra-Hot Springs also known as Patrol Points 15 and 17a. There is also the “legacy” issue of the Depsang plains where Indian troops have been prevented from patrolling on points 10 to 13. After an agreement on disengagement at Pangong Tso, there has been no further progress. The last round of military commanders’ talks on June 25 too did not break the deadlock. “It was expected that the Chinese side would work with us towards this objective. EAM noted, however, that the situation in remaining areas is still unresolved,” the MEA statement said.

It was believed then that the issue would have to be resolved at the political level, which resulted in Wednesday’s meeting of the foreign ministers. A Jaishankar-Wang meeting in Moscow last year in September, soon after an Indian manoeuvre to gain control of the heights on the south bank of Pangong Tso surprised the Chinese, had led to a five point consensus to ease border tensions. A mutual disengagement at Pangong Tso took place in February this year.

In his meeting, Jaishankar said the border situation was “visibly impacting the relationship in a negative manner.” China’s attempts to “change the status quo” in the border areas last year “disregarded commitments under the 1993 and 1996 agreements have inevitably affected ties.” “He emphasised that it was, therefore, in mutual interest that the two sides work towards early resolution of the remaining issues along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh, while fully abiding by bilateral agreements and protocols,” MEA said.

Following the meeting between Jaishankar and Wang Yi, China said it's ready to seek a "mutually acceptable solution" to the issues that required "urgent treatment" but added its troops were not responsible for the current impasse and that the two countries needed to keep the border issue at the "appropriate place".

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