New Delhi: The seventh round of military talks between India and China was “positive and constructive”, a joint statement by the two armies said on Tuesday, but there was no breakthrough in sight for speedy disengagement of troops at friction points in eastern Ladakh.
As the two sides agreed to earnestly implement the understanding reached by their leaders to not turn differences into disputes, authoritative sources here said there was no significant forward movement on disengagement of troops from the flash points in eastern Ladakh. The Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army(PLA) are locked in an over five-month-long border standoff.
The sources said there was no breakthrough at the talks on disengagement of troops and that India insisted on restoration of status quo ante of April at all friction points. The face-off began on May 5.
A joint press statement by the two armies after the talks on Monday that lasted for nearly 12 hours said both sides agreed to maintain dialogue and communication through military and diplomatic channels, and arrive at a mutually acceptable solution for disengagement “as early as possible”. The statement was released both in Delhi and Beijing.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, meanwhile, made an oft-repeated comment that China does not recognise the union territory of Ladakh or the state of Arunachal Pradesh. He also claimed that the stepping up of infrastructure building by India and military deployment along the border with China was the “root cause of tensions”.
India has been strongly maintaining that both Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh are integral part of the country and that China should refrain from commenting on its internal matters.
Spokesman Zhao was replying to a question at a media briefing in Beijing by a western media journalist on India’s construction of a number of bridges in border areas of Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.
The spokesman said based on the consensus reached by the two sides recently, neither side should take any action that might complicate the situation at the border region, so that bilateral efforts to ease tension will not be undermined.
“For a while, the Indian side has been stepping up infrastructure building and military deployment along the border with China. This is the root cause of tensions.
“We urge the Indian side to earnestly implement the consensus reached by the two sides, refrain from taking actions that will complicate the situation, and take concrete measures to safeguard peace and tranquility along the border,” he said.
The military talks took place at Chushul on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh in the midst of massive preparations by both the sides to maintain the existing deployment during the harsh winter months.
“The two sides had a sincere, in-depth and constructive exchange of views on disengagement along the Line of Actual Control in the western sector of India-China border areas,” the joint press statement said.
It said both sides were of the view that these discussions were “positive, constructive” and had enhanced understanding of each other’s positions.
“Both sides agreed to maintain dialogue and communication through military and diplomatic channels, and arrive at a mutually acceptable solution for disengagement as early as possible,” the statement added.
“Both sides agreed to earnestly implement the important understandings reached by the leaders of the two countries, not to turn differences into disputes, and jointly safeguard peace and tranquility in the border areas.”
At the first informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in April 2018, the two sides had emphasised on not allowing difference to become disputes. This understanding has featured in multiple statements by the two countries since then.
The summit had taken place months after the Doklam episode that had significantly strained ties between the two neighbouring countries.
The Indian delegation at the military talks was led by Lt Gen Harinder Singh, the commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps, and it included Naveen Srivastava, Joint Secretary (East Asia) in the Ministry of External Affairs(MEA). It also comprised Lt Gen PGK Menon, who succeeded Singh as the commander of the 14 Corps on Tuesday.
The Chinese side was headed by Commander of South Xinjiang Military District Maj Gen Liu Lin.
The sources in Delhi said India also pressed for a comprehensive disengagement and not a “selective one”.
The PLA has been demanding withdrawal of Indian troops from several strategic heights on the southern bank of the Pangong lake to kick-start the disengagement process.
Indian troops had occupied the strategic heights in Mukhpari, Rezang La and Magar hill areas around the southern bank of Pangong lake after the PLA soldiers attempted to intimidate them in the area on the intervening night of August 29 and 30.
Following the sixth round of military talks on September 21, the two sides announced a slew of decisions including not to send more troops to the frontline, refrain from unilaterally changing the situation on the ground and avoid taking any actions that may further complicate matters.
The sixth and seventh round of military talks were held with a specific agenda of exploring ways to implement a five-point agreement reached between External Affairs minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at a meeting in Moscow on September 10 on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) conclave.
The pact included measures like quick disengagement of troops, avoiding action that could escalate tensions, adherence to all agreements and protocols on border management and steps to restore peace along the LAC. PTI