Don’t shift goalposts on LAC row, Indian envoy tells Chinese
India’s ambassador to China, Vikram Misri, has urged China to separate the ongoing border tension in eastern Ladakh from the larger boundary dispute, saying the primary concern now is to restore peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and not resolving the decades-long boundary disagreement.
Speaking at a virtual India-China track-II dialogue last week, Misri said day-to-day affairs along the disputed border should be addressed through existing established agreements and protocols, which are not to be confused with the long-term mechanisms in place for the final resolution.
Misri was referring to the ongoing 16-month long military tension along the LAC in eastern Ladakh, which has plunged Sino-India bilateral ties to the worst chill in decades.
“A serious violation of peace and tranquillity in the border areas naturally requires us to apply our minds on the basis of established agreements, protocols and mechanisms to resolve it,” Misri told the gathering by video link.
“As we do so, any attempt to confuse border affairs with the Boundary Question is a disservice to the work of those involved in finding solutions,” he said, indicating that China was doing so by “shifting goalposts”.
“This is why the Indian side has been consistently saying that the current issue is about restoring peace and tranquillity to the border areas and is not about the resolution of the larger Boundary Question, on which our stance has not changed, despite what happened last year,” Misri added.
Separating the broader boundary dispute from managing day-to-day border affairs, Misri listed the “Special Representatives mechanism, the Agreement on Political Parameters and Guiding Principles of 2005 and the three-phase framework” as the agreements designed to resolve the dispute.
“On the other hand, for managing border affairs on a daily basis, we evolved a mechanism, consisting of instruments such as the WMCC and a succession of agreements, protocols and CBMs, in order to govern behaviour on the ground and ensure peace and tranquillity,” Misri said, adding that the final resolution of the disputed border is a “…complex and sensitive issue requiring time to work through”.
The Indian ambassador was addressing an event co-hosted by the School of International Studies of Sichuan University (SCU), China Centre for South Asian Studies and the New Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses last Friday; his speech was released on Sunday.
Misri addressed the gathering, which included Chinese envoy to India, Sun Weidong, on a day when India blamed China’s “provocative behaviour” and unilateral attempts to alter status quo on the LAC for disrupting bilateral ties, rejecting Beijing’s contention, on the same day, that the Indian side was responsible for the deadly Galwan Valley clash last year.
Misri reminded the Chinese side that safeguarding territorial integrity and national security held equal value for both sides.
“Affixing blame exclusively on the other side is not a helpful approach. And to press one’s own concerns and disregard the other side’s concerns and sensitivities without any explanation or recourse goes beyond disrespect. It actually creates even more obstacles to finding solutions,” he said.
In his speech, Misri listed two other “obstacles” in the current difficult ties with China: one-sided view of concerns and sensitivities, and viewing bilateral relations through the prism of relations with other countries.
The Indian ambassador brought up the problems that students and separated families in India were facing because of stringent visa restrictions implemented by China in the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I would also like to mention that these issues need not be limited to the realm of high politics. Far less complex issues, which have a purely humanitarian context and are not connected to bilateral diplomatic stances, such as facilitating the movement of students, businesspersons and stranded family members from India to China for over a year and a half now, await a more balanced and sensitive approach,” Misri said.
Thousands of Indian citizens who work, study or whose spouses work in China are stranded in India because of Beijing’s hard visa rules.
The Chinese government has so far not given any indication when it will open its borders to Indian citizens.
On external factors impacting Sino-Indian ties, he said: “India-China relations therefore must be judged and managed on their own merits. They are substantial enough and sufficiently complex that they require their own approach and appropriate handling, without imaginary third factors complicating them further and distracting us from working on our priorities.”