At WMCC meet, India, China agree to ensure peace at LAC
India and China agreed on Friday to ensure stability in the Ladakh sector of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and convene another meeting of senior military commanders soon to take forward disengagement and de-escalation at friction points on the disputed border.
These were among the outcomes of a virtual meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs, which was held against the backdrop of the disengagement process stalling after the withdrawal of troops by both sides from the north and south banks of Pangong Lake in February.
The meeting was held hours before the first summit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad, which will be joined by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and US President Joe Biden. The Quad Summit is expected to lead to several initiatives aimed at countering China’s influence and actions across the Indo-Pacific.
At the WMCC meeting, the two sides reviewed the situation in the western sector of the LAC and had “in-depth discussions on the remaining issues” in this sector, a statement from the external affairs ministry said.
The two sides agreed to continue their dialogue through diplomatic and military channels to “reach a mutually acceptable solution for complete disengagement from all friction points at the earliest”, the statement said.
They also agreed to convene the 11th meeting of the senior military commanders “at an early date so that two sides could work towards complete disengagement from the remaining friction areas”, the statement added.
The disengagement would enable both sides to “look at broader de-escalation of troops in the area and work towards restoration of peace and tranquillity in the border areas”. The two sides further agreed that in the interim period, they would “continue to maintain stability at ground level and prevent any untoward incident”, the statement said.
A similarly worded readout issued from the Chinese side said the two sides had agreed to continue communications through diplomatic and military channels, “hold the next round of military-level talks as soon as possible, promote further de-escalation of the situation on the ground and jointly safeguard the hard-won peace and stability in the border areas”.
The Indian statement said the two sides viewed the completion of disengagement on the north and south banks of Pangong Lake as providing a “good basis for the two sides to work towards early resolution” of remaining issues. It added that the agreement between the two foreign ministers during their meeting on the margins of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet in Moscow last September and their phone conversation last month “should continue to guide the work of two sides”.
The Chinese readout noted that the two sides had positively evaluated the disengagement at Pangong Lake and had a candid and in-depth exchange of views on promoting resolution at other areas. It added that the two sides had agreed to stabilise the situation on the border and avoid any “repetition of the situation on the ground in accordance with the five-point consensus reached at the Moscow meeting of the two foreign ministers and the spirit of their February 25 phone call”.
The WMCC meet was co-chaired additional secretary (East Asia) Naveen Srivastava of the external affairs ministry and Hong Liang, director general of the boundary and oceanic department of China’s foreign ministry.
The 10th meeting of the senior military commanders was held on February 20 after the two sides completed the withdrawal of frontline troops with armoured formations and artillery from the banks of Pangong Lake. However, the two sides were unable to make progress on efforts to disengage at other friction points such as Gogra, Hot Springs and Depsang Plains.
The two sides have been locked in a standoff since May last year after Chinese troops impeded patrols by Indian forces and there were scuffles in the Ladakh and Sikkim sectors. A brutal clash at Galwan Valley last June – which left 20 Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese troops dead and was the first incident on the LAC involving fatalities since 1975 – took bilateral ties to an all-time low.
India has insisted that China’s actions on the LAC have seriously damaged bilateral ties and normalcy can be restored only by disengagement, de-escalation and restoration of the status quo on the border.