The southern bank of Pangong Tso has emerged as the latest bone of contention between India and China along the LAC in Ladakh.(AP File Photo)
The southern bank of Pangong Tso has emerged as the latest bone of contention between India and China along the LAC in Ladakh.(AP File Photo)

Amid impasse on LAC in Ladakh, India says only way forward through talks

Complex talks being conducted through diplomatic and military channels to end the standoff that began in May suffered a blow when Chinese troops resorted to what were described as “provocative military movements” on the south bank of Pangong Lake during August 29-30.
By Rezaul H Laskar and Sutirtho Patranobis | Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Beijing
UPDATED ON SEP 03, 2020 07:12 PM IST

India on Thursday squarely blamed China for the tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC)in Ladakh over the past four months and said the only way forward was through negotiations – reflecting the impasse created by Beijing’s fresh attempts to alter the status quo along the disputed border over the weekend.

There was no word from Beijing on the latest situation on the LAC, though the Chinese foreign ministry cited Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore and yoga’s popularity in the country to criticise New Delhi’s fresh ban on 118 Chinese apps and subtly warned India not to join the US “clean network” programme, an initiative for an internet without security threats.

Complex talks being conducted through diplomatic and military channels to end the standoff that began in May suffered a blow when Chinese troops resorted to what were described as “provocative military movements” on the south bank of Pangong Lake during August 29-30. They were thwarted by counter-measures by the Indian side, which quickly occupied several strategic heights and hilltops, and talks between local brigade commanders since Monday to ease the fresh tensions have been inconclusive.

“It is clear that the situation we witnessed over the past four months is a direct result of the actions taken by the Chinese side that sought to effect unilateral change of status quo,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava told a weekly news briefing.

“Now the way ahead is negotiations, both through the diplomatic and military channels. The Indian side is firmly committed to resolving all outstanding issues through peaceful dialogue,” he said.

The Chinese side, Srivastava added, should “sincerely engage the Indian side with the objective of expeditiously restoring the peace and tranquillity in the border areas through complete disengagement and de-escalation in accordance with bilateral agreements and protocols”.

Without going into details, he said the local military commanders are still holding discussions to resolve the situation that had arisen from the attempt by Chinese troops to unilaterally change the status quo on the south bank of Pangong Lake.

In Beijing, the foreign and commerce ministries criticised India’s ban on 118 Chinese apps and called for the “mistake” to be reversed. Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying even questioned whether India was working with the US on such issues and called for New Delhi to adopt an independent policy.

The foreign ministry said that unlike the reason behind India’s decision to ban the apps, the popularity of Tagore’s poetry and the wide approval of Yoga among Chinese nationals didn’t mean that Beijing looks at such issues as “infiltration” or a “threat”.

India on Wednesday banned 118 mostly Chinese mobile apps, including Tencent Holdings’s popular video game PUBG, citing data security and privacy concerns. These apps collected and shared data in a “surreptitious manner and compromise personal data and information of users that can have a severe threat to the security of the state”, the Indian side said.

Hua said the latest ban would harm the interests of Indian users and the rights of Chinese businesses. Both countries are ancient civilisations with exchange going back thousands of years, she said, giving the example of Tagore, many of whose poems are popular in China.

She quoted a line from one of Tagore’s poems: “We read the world wrong, and say that it deceives us.” She added, “Also, yoga is becoming more and more popular in China, including myself, I am very fond of Indian culture. But we do not think that Indian culture or the poems or other things are infiltrating here or posing any threat to Chinese culture.”

Hua issued a subtle warning about ties between India and the US: “I have noted that the US state department on the same day said India banned more than 100 Chinese apps and called on other countries to join India to roll out the clean network initiative.

“So, I don’t know if there is any correlation or interaction between India and the US. But India is an ancient civilisation with wise people. They should know what the US has done in cyber security, for example Dirtbox, Prism, Irritant Horn, Muscular and under-sea cable tapping.”

Hua also said China hopes India will “stay committed to its precious independence [in] decision-making”.

Commerce ministry spokesperson Gao Feng called on India to work with the Chinese side to maintain hard-won bilateral cooperation to build an open and fair business environment for international investors and service providers, including Chinese companies.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Srivastava defended the ban on apps, saying they had engaged in activities prejudicial to the sovereignty, integrity and defence of India.

“What I can say is that we remain open, we continue to welcome FDI in the country, including in the area of internet technology. However, what we would like to say is companies, when they operate here, they have to operate in accordance with the regulatory framework of the government of India,” he added.

India first banned 59 Chinese apps on June 29, days after a clash that left 20 Indian soldiers dead and caused unspecified Chinese casualties in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley. Another 47 apps were added to the ban in July.

Experts in China expectedly criticised India’s ban. Zhao Gancheng, director of the Centre for Asia-Pacific Studies at Shanghai Institute for International Studies, said while the ban will likely have a limited impact on the Indian economy, the “ill intentions behind the Indian government’s move to stir up tension and even a conflict with China are increasingly reaching a dangerous level”.

“This is dangerous. The worse the Indian economy becomes, the higher the probability that a military conflict could be provoked by New Delhi. This is a very worrisome situation,” Zhao told state media.

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