Disengagement in progress: Jaishankar
External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Saturday described as “work in progress” the “disengagement and de-escalation” process with China in East Ladakh.
Discussing the India-China face-off in Ladakh at India Global Week 2020, organised by India Inc, a UK-based media house, Jaishankar said the process had been mutually agreed upon and just commenced. “What’s happened is that we have agreed on the need to disengage because the troops on both sides are deployed very close to each other.”
On-ground verification in East Ladakh has shown that Indian and Chinese troops have moved back from positions where they were in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation by at least 600 metres at the four stand-off points as well as all along the 1597 km Line of Actual Control in the western sector, top military and diplomatic officials said on condition of anonymity.
According to the officials, the two sides have decided to temporarily halt patrolling at the four friction points, Galwan, Gogra, Hot Springs and Pangong Tso — but without prejudice to their patrolling rights — so that temperatures are reduced on the border and any chance of an accident is avoided. This is not the first time that India and China have agreed to such measures, they pointed out; it was done at Finger 8 in Pangong Tso in 2008 and at Depsang Bulge in 2013 after similar stand-offs were resolved.
The officials denied that there was a buffer zone.
“There is no buffer zone. All we have done is that both sides have withdrawn to rear positions so that no accident or flare-up takes place. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is dismantling structures and moving vehicles back at the stand-off points in daylight to maintain transparency. It also wants Indian troops to move back the same distance as there is trust deficit between the two sides... it only requires a spark to catch fire and undo all the dialogue,” said a senior military commander.
During the third virtual meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs on Friday, India and China said they would push forward efforts aimed at complete disengagement and easing of tensions along the LAC even as differences remained over issues such as Beijing’s insistence of claiming ownership of Galwan valley.
A date for the meeting of senior military commanders next week is being worked out, and the situation on ground reveals a complete disengagement at Galwan with neither of the forces sitting on or next to the LAC.
Jaishankar also emphasized that there is bipartisan consensus in the US to strengthen the relationship with India. “ Think back of the last four US Presidents—Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George Bush and Bill Clinton—and you would agree that you cant’ find four people in world less similar.... Yet one thing on which they agreed is importance of India.... Maybe some of it is our charm but I think a lot of it is also their thinking. We have a very strong political, strategic, security, technology, economic cooperation and defence cooperation with United States,” he said.