China again seeks to de-link standoff at LAC with bilateral relations
China has again sought to delink the standoff with India on the LAC from the overall bilateral relationship.
China has again sought to delink the standoff with India on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) from the overall bilateral relationship, with defence minister Gen Li Shangfu describing the situation as “generally stable” and calling for the border issue to be put in its “appropriate position”.
Li, in New Delhi to attend a meeting of defence ministers of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) states, made the remarks at a meeting with his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh on Thursday, according to a readout issued by China’s defence ministry on Friday.
The Chinese position is in marked variance with the stand taken by Singh, who told Li during their meeting that the development of bilateral relations is “premised on prevalence of peace and tranquillity at the borders”. Singh also said the violation of existing border management agreements had “eroded the entire basis of bilateral relations”. HT reported on Thursday that the two ministers also did not shake hands.
The military standoff on the LAC, which began three years ago, has resulted in India and China deploying about 50,000 troops each in the Ladakh sector. A brutal clash at Galwan Valley in June 2020 killed 20 Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese troops and took bilateral ties to their lowest point in six decades.
During his meeting with Singh, Li said the situation on the China-India border is currently “generally stable” and the two sides “should take a long-term view, place the border issue in an appropriate position in bilateral relations, and promote the transition of the border situation to normalized management”, according to the Chinese readout.
Noting that India and China have maintained communication through military and diplomatic channels, the readout said: “It is hoped that the two sides will work together to continuously enhance mutual trust between the two militaries and make proper contributions to the development of bilateral relations.”
Li further said that as neighbouring and important developing countries, China and India “share far more common interests than differences”, and the two sides should view bilateral ties “from a comprehensive, long-term and strategic perspective, and jointly contribute wisdom and strength to world and regional peace and stability”.
In recent weeks, the Chinese side has pushed a narrative that the Ladakh sector is of the LAC is largely stable and that the two sides are working towards “normalised management and control” of the situation.
However, external affairs minister said last month that situation on the LAC remains “very fragile” as there are points where Indian and Chinese troop deployments are “quite dangerous”, and that China needs to deliver on commitments to resolve the issue.
After more than two dozen rounds of diplomatic and military talks, the two sides have pulled back frontline troops from both banks of Pangong Lake, Gogra and Hot Springs, but have been unable to make headway on disengagement at more tricky friction points in Depsang and Demchok.
At his meeting with Li, Singh said “disengagement at the border will logically be followed with de-escalation”. Singh also told Li that all issues at the LAC need to be resolved in line with existing bilateral agreements and commitments.
The meeting between Singh and Li was held days after the Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) held the 18th round of military talks on April 23 to ease tensions along the LAC in Ladakh. During the military talks, the two sides agreed to maintain security and stability along the LAC and work out a mutually acceptable resolution of remaining issues.
Li’s visit to India is the first by a Chinese defence minister after the June 2020 clash in Galwan Valley that derailed bilateral ties.