New Delhi: China’s attempts over the last year to unilaterally alter the status quo in Ladakh were in violation of bilateral agreements and inevitably impacted the development of ties, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Wednesday and noted that an early completion of the disengagement process could lead to the de-escalation of forces there.
Delivering a talk on “Global Rebalancing and India’s Foreign Policy” organised by the Vivekananda International Foundation, he said India’s relations with major powers have attained comprehensive strategic levels while maintaining strategic autonomy.
“We have carefully tended our relationship with the United States. It is an exciting and forward-looking partnership. India and the United States have also partnered with Japan and Australia in another forward looking partnership,” he said in a reference to the QUAD grouping.
Noting that the rise of China and India’s proximity brings its own implications, Shringla said Chinese attempts over the last year to unilaterally alter the status quo in Ladakh have “seriously disturbed” peace and tranquillity in the border areas.
“These acts are in violation of our bilateral agreements and have inevitably impacted the development of the bilateral relationship. We have nevertheless maintained dialogue to peacefully resolve the situation,” he said.
“An early completion of the disengagement process could lead to the de-escalation of forces in Eastern Ladakh, which would hopefully lead to restoration of peace and tranquillity in the border areas and facilitate overall progress in the bilateral relationship,” he said.
India and China were locked in a military standoff at multiple friction points in eastern Ladakh since early May last year. However, the two sides completed the withdrawal of troops and weapons from the North and South banks of Pangong lake in February following a series of military and diplomatic talks.
The two sides are now engaged in talks to extend the disengagement process to the remaining friction points.
India has been particularly pressing for disengagement of troops in Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang.
According to military officials, each side currently has around 50,000 to 60,000 troops along the LAC in the sensitive high altitude sector.
There was no visible forward movement in disengagement of troops in the remaining friction points as the Chinese side did not show flexibility in their approach to this issue at the 11th round of military talks.
In his remarks, Shringla also said India has an enduring friendship with Russia and that friendship continues to be strengthened.
“We will give particular attention to building a 21st century relationship with Europe and a new and transformational partnership with a United Kingdom that has just exited the EU,” he said.
Noting that India’s engagement with Africa has been reinvigorated, Shringla said this is reflected in the stepped up exchanges at the political level and enhanced economic engagement, including through India’s Lines of Credit.