Agree to ‘quickly disengage’ troops
New Delhi: India and China have reached a five-point consensus to resolve the four-month-long military standoff in eastern Ladakh agreeing to “quickly disengage” troops, avoid action that could escalate tensions and take steps to restore peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The agreement in which the two countries said the current situation in the border areas is not in the interest of either side was finalised during the “frank and constructive” talks between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on Thursday evening on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet.
The consensus during the talks that lasted two-and-a-half-hours came days after a fresh confrontation between the armies of the two countries on Monday in eastern Ladakh further escalating the standoff that erupted in May and triggering a massive military build up by both sides in almost all friction points along the LAC, the de-facto border between the two countries.
Government sources said the five-point agreement will guide the approach of the two countries in tackling the current border situation.
“The two foreign ministers agreed that the current situation in the border areas is not in the interest of either side. They agreed therefore that the border troops of both sides should continue their dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain proper distance and ease tensions,” said a joint press statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs(MEA) in the early hours of Friday.
The five-point agreement has not mentioned any timeline for disengagement and restoration of peace and tranquillity.
It said Jaishankar and Wang agreed that both sides shall abide by all the existing agreements and protocol on China-India boundary affairs, maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas and avoid any action that could escalate matters.
Significantly, the statement said the ministers agreed that as the situation eases, the two sides should expedite work to conclude “new confidence building measures” to maintain and enhance peace and tranquillity in the border areas.
At the talks, the Indian delegation highlighted its strong concern over amassing of troops and military equipment by China along the LAC besides referring to “provocative behaviour” by Chinese army personnel at numerous incidents of friction, government sources said.
They said the Chinese side could not provide a credible explanation for the troops buildup.
The Indian side insisted that the immediate task is to ensure a comprehensive disengagement of troops in all the friction areas and that it is necessary to prevent any untoward incident in the future, the sources said.
The joint statement also said Jaishankar and Wang agreed that both sides should take guidance from the series of consensus reached between leaders of the two countries on developing India-China relations, including not allowing differences to become disputes.
It was clear that the reference was to the broad decision taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in the talks following the Doklam episode of 2017.
“The two sides also agreed to continue to have dialogue and communication through the Special Representative mechanism on the India-China boundary question,” the joint statement said.
“They also agreed in this context that the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China border affairs (WMCC), should also continue its meetings,” it said. Foreign Minister Wang and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval are special representatives for the boundary talks.
The meeting between Jaishankar and Wang was the second highest political contact between the two countries in a week. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Chinese counterpart Gen. Wei Fenghe had also met in Moscow September 4 on the sidelines of another SCO meet.
The Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army(PLA) have been locked in a tense standoff in multiple areas along the LAC in eastern Ladakh since early May. Shots were fired across the LAC on Monday for the first time in 45 years with the two sides accusing each other of firing in the air.
A press release issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing quoted Wang as having told Jaishankar that it is normal for both the countries to have differences but it is important to put them in proper context and take the guidance of the leaders.
“Wang noted that it is normal for China and India to have differences as two neighbouring major countries. What is important is to put these differences in a proper context vis-a-vis bilateral relations”, the release said.
Wang stressed that as two large developing countries are emerging rapidly, what China and India need right now is cooperation, not confrontation; and mutual trust, not suspicion, the release added.
“Whenever the situation gets difficult, it is all the more important to ensure the stability of the overall relationship and preserve mutual trust”, Wang said.
“China-India relations have once again come to a crossroads. But as long as the two sides keep moving the relationship in the right direction, there will be no difficulty or challenge that can’t be overcome,” Wang added.
Indian government sources said the Indian side clearly conveyed during the talks that it expected full adherence to all agreements on management of border areas and would not countenance any attempt to change the status quo unilaterally.
“It was also emphasized that the Indian troops had scrupulously followed all agreements and protocols pertaining to the management of the border areas,” said a source.
Jaishankar told Wang that maintenance of peace and tranquillity on the border areas was essential to the forward development of ties, the sources said.
He conveyed to his Chinese counterpart that the recent incidents in eastern Ladakh, however, inevitably impacted the development of the bilateral relationship.
Therefore, the Indian leader told Wang that an urgent resolution of the current situation was in the interest of both the nations, the sources said. PTI