Dispute persists, but India, China commit to disengage
People familiar with developments, speaking on condition of anonymity, drew a distinction between positions adopted by the two sides on contentious issues such as China’s claim on Galwan Valley, and the process of disengagement involving meetings of corps commanders and mechanisms such as WMCC.Updated: Jul 11, 2020 03:58 IST
India and China said on Friday they will push forward efforts aimed at complete disengagement and easing of tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), even as differences persisted between the two sides on issues such as Galwan Valley.
In a separate but related development, the Chinese envoy to India called for maintaining peace along the disputed border until both sides found a “reasonable solution” and for a “win-win” bilateral relationship, but warned against measures aimed at “decoupling” the two economies.
Following the third virtual meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs since the standoff began in early May, both sides issued similarly worded statements focused on progress in the disengagement and de-escalation process that began last weekend after a phone call between the Special Representatives on the boundary issue – India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi.
People familiar with developments, speaking on condition of anonymity, drew a distinction between positions adopted by the two sides on contentious issues such as China’s claim on Galwan Valley, and the process of disengagement involving meetings of corps commanders and mechanisms such as WMCC.
“This meeting of WMCC reviewed the progress in disengagement and de-escalation and agreed communications will continue. WMCC monitors the disengagement according to the roadmap drawn up by the military commanders, who are set to meet again next week,” said one of the people cited above.
“The positions of the two sides on issues such as Galwan Valley haven’t changed. We have made it clear that we aren’t ceding any ground on such issues,” the person added.
The Indian readout following the two-hour meeting of WMCC said both sides had reaffirmed they “will ensure complete disengagement of the troops along the LAC and de-escalation from...border areas for full restoration of peace and tranquility in the border areas in accordance with bilateral agreements and protocols”.
The statement from China’s foreign ministry said both sides “fully affirmed the positive progress made by border defence forces of the two countries in implementing the consensus reached at the commander-level and easing the situation on the ground”. It added they will continue to properly handle issues and jointly safeguard peace and tranquillity along the border and overall ties.
Both sides said the disengagement and de-escalation process is in line with the agreement reached by the foreign ministers on June 17 and the Special Representatives during their phone conversation on July 5.
The Indian readout further said the two sides had agreed it was essential to maintain “enduring peace and tranquility” along the border for overall development of bilateral ties. It added India and China had also agreed it “was necessary for both sides to sincerely implement the understandings reached between senior [military] commanders”.
As agreed by the Special Representatives, the corps commanders will “meet soon to discuss further steps so as to ensure complete disengagement and de-escalation in a timely manner”, the Indian statement said. The two sides also agreed to hold another meeting of WMCC in the near future.
The Chinese statement also spoke about promoting the “further cooling of the situation on the ground”, strengthening confidence-building measures along the border and promptly handling issues to prevent differences becoming disputes.
Friday’s WMCC meeting was co-chaired by joint secretary (East Asia) Naveen Srivastava of the external affairs ministry and director general Hong Liang of the boundary and oceanic affairs department of China’s foreign ministry.
Shortly after the meeting, Chinese envoy to India, Sun Weidong, said that both countries need peace rather than confrontation, and should maintain peace along their disputed border until they find a “reasonable solution” to the complicated issue.
Sun addressed calls from some quarters for “decoupling” of bilateral economic and trade relations and excluding “Made in China” goods, saying self-protection, non-tariff barriers and restrictive measures would be unfair to both Chinese enterprises and Indian consumers.
He further said India and China need to build trust through mutual respect and treating each other as equals. The two sides should “respect and accommodate mutual core interests and major concerns” and adhere to the principle of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.
Sun made the remarks in a nearly 18-minute video posted on the Chinese embassy’s YouTube channel. The theme of his remarks was “Implement consensus and handle differences properly to bring China-India relations back on the right track”.
His remarks focused on five points — India and China should be partners, rather than rivals; they need peace, rather than confrontation; they should pursue win-win cooperation instead of a zero-sum game; they need to build trust, rather than suspicion; and bilateral ties should move forward, rather than backward.
“We need to seek convergence while putting aside differences and not impose one’s will on the other. We should honour our commitment, walk the talk, and ensure implementation of the leaders’ consensus in letter and in spirit,” Sun said.
He also made several references to the age-old ties between the two countries and the consensus achieved through informal summits between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping since 2018.
Referring to the phone conversation between the Special Representatives, Sun noted the two had agreed to prevent more incidents that undermine peace and tranquillity along the border.
Sun acknowledged China and India have a “sensitive and complicated” boundary issue left over from history and said: “We need to find a fair and reasonable solution mutually acceptable through equal consultation and peaceful negotiation. Pending an ultimate settlement, we both agree to work together to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas.”
However, the envoy again sought to blame India for the violent clash at Galwan Valley on June 15 that left 20 Indian soldiers dead and caused unspecified Chinese casualties. “The right and wrong of what recently happened at the Galwan Valley is very clear. China will firmly safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and ensure the peace and tranquillity in the border areas,” he said.
A person familiar with developments said the Chinese envoy’s remarks acknowledged the importance of China-India ties. “He’s saying there is a larger relationship to take care of,” the person added.
Experts, however, continued to be sceptical of China’s position on the border standoff.
Former ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, distinguished fellow for foreign policy studies at Gateway House, said: “There is a glaring gap between the noble norms talked of by the Chinese envoy and the brutal actions of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). India’s focus remains the disengagement and de-escalation process by zeroing in on the implementation of the agreements reached so far.”
He added that feedback from metros and towns across India reflected the increasing sentiments about restricting economic ties with China. “The People’s Liberation Army is effectively demolishing the business prospects of Huawei and other Chinese firms in India and elsewhere.”