The situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh remains “very fragile” and “quite dangerous” in terms of military assessment, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said, in a significant choice of words that underlines the current state of the India-China border standoff that began nearly three years ago.
This is also the first time Jaishankar has used such strong language to describe the India-China situation at the LAC where the Chinese have matched a build-up of around 60,000 Indian troops at close proximity. He has earlier called it “unstable” or “abnormal”.
Sources in the government said Jaishankar’s use of the word “dangerous” is deliberate given the aggressive posture adopted by the Chinese, as assessed by the Indian military, and also the geo-political circumstances arising out of Xi Jinping’s rare third term as the Chinese President.
“This is a very, I would say, challenging and abnormal phase in our ties with China. Why I say that is because from 1988 when Rajiv Gandhi went there till 2020 the understanding was that peace and tranquility on the border would be maintained,” Jaishankar said.
He said the Chinese violated the agreements in 2020 and “the consequences of it were seen in Galwan Valley and other areas”. “We have deployed our troops, we have stood our ground and the situation to my mind still remains very fragile because there are places where our deployments are very close up and in military assessment, actually therefore, quite dangerous,” he said.
Referring to the agreements between India and China to not bring large forces to the border, Jaishankar said the two countries had a “very specific” set of understandings and had put in place protocols on the handling of various situations. He said he and former Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had also reached an “in-principle agreement in September 2020” on how to resolve the LAC issue.
Jaishankar said the two countries have, of late, made “substantial progress” on disengagement in many areas while discussions were on over many other areas as well. “It is a painstaking job and we will do that…” he said.