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India and China talking again on Ladakh border standoff

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(TibetanReview.net, Jun01’22) – India and China are talking again after a six-month hiatus, but with little success over their armies’ continuing standoff across their presumptive Line of Actual Control (LAC) involving border areas in Ladakh, according to Indian media reports May 31 and Jun 1.

India insists that normalizing bilateral ties hinges on settling the border issue, with China withdrawing their troops to restore the status quo before the current crisis broke out. On the other hand, China maintains that the border standoff need not stand in the way of the two sides normalizing ties in other areas.

In this background, the reports said the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on India-China border affairs, which met virtually for the first time since Nov 2021, reviewed the situation along the LAC in the western sector in Ladakh, and both sides agreed to continue diplomatic and military talks.

The disengagement and de-escalation process between India and China has been deadlocked since the two sides pulled back frontline troops from the north and south banks of Pangong Lake in February last year and from Gogra in Aug 2021. There has been no forward movement on disengagement at key friction points such as Hot Springs and Depsang, noted the hindustantimes.com May 31.

At the May 31 virtual meeting, the two sides were reported to have agreed that, as instructed by the two foreign ministers, they “should continue the discussions through diplomatic and military channels to resolve the remaining issues along the LAC at the earliest so as to create conditions for restoration of normalcy in bilateral relations,” India’s external affairs ministry has said in a statement.

According to the statement, the two sides further agreed to hold the next or 16th round of talks between senior military commanders at an early date to “achieve the objective of complete disengagement from all friction points along the LAC in the western sector in accordance with the existing bilateral agreements and protocols”.

In its readout in Mandarin, China’s foreign ministry was stated to have spoken of maintaining communications through diplomatic and military channels and about holding the next round of military talks “as soon as possible”. The readout was stated to add that the remaining issues in the western sector should be resolved “under the principle of mutual and equal security”.

A senior diplomat from India’s external affairs ministry was now stated to be part of the senior commanders’ meetings, which is perceived as the more important format for tackling the outstanding friction areas on the LAC.

The Indian side at the WMCC meeting was led by additional secretary (East Asia) Naveen Srivastava, and the Chinese side by Hong Liang, director general of the department of boundary and ocean affairs in the foreign ministry.

India and China have been locked in a standoff in Ladakh sector since early May 2020, sending bilateral ties plummeting to their worst in decades, with both sides having arrayed close to 50,000 troops each along the LAC. A deadly clash at Galwan Valley in Jun 2020 left 20 Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese troops dead – the first fatalities along the LAC since 1975.

Given the apparently irreconcilable position between the two sides, former ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, distinguished fellow for foreign policy studies at Gateway House, has said, “Given the complexity of border issues, it is obviously important from the Indian point of view to continue the dialogue. The fact that China continues to remain engaged gives a small ray of hope that better sense will prevail on their side sooner or later.”

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