EAM Jaishankar to meet Chinese FM Qi Gang in Goa tomorrow

By, New Delhi
May 03, 2023 10:53 AM IST

The second meet between the two ministers after G20 event shows that both sides want to continue dialogue to resolve Ladakh border issue.

External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar will meet his Chinese counterpart Qi Gang on the sidelines of the SCO Foreign Ministers Meeting in Goa tomorrow to push for resolution of remaining boundary issues in East Ladakh. The pending resolution of Depsang Bulge and Demchok in East Ladakh is holding back normalization of bilateral ties between the two Asian giants.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar with Chinese Foreign Minister Qi Gang at a G-20 meeting.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar with Chinese Foreign Minister Qi Gang at a G-20 meeting.

There, however, is no bilateral meeting scheduled between EAM Jaishankar and Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is expected to attend the SCO FM meeting also. While EAM Jaishankar has always raised the issue of cross-border terrorism from Pakistan, Zardari has gone well beyond his brief and spewed venom against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular and against India in general in the context of Kashmir. FM Zardari comes to India at a time when his deputy Hina Rabbani Khar is in news for asking Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to dump ties with the US and in favour of a strategic partnership with China in a secret communique leaked to western media.

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While the SCO FM meeting is expected to finalize the agreements to be signed in the July SCO summit, the meeting between EAM Jaishankar and Chinese FM Qi Gang is an indicator that both sides are keen to resolve outstanding border issues and have the patience to deal with the problem without further aggravating the border tensions. Even during the April 23, 2023, senior military commanders meeting at Chushul, the Chinese military commander made it clear that the PLA wanted the issue to be resolved but wanted to seek directions from Beijing on both Depsang Bulge and Demchok area. The Indian Army commander reiterated that the border issue does not get resolved till both the friction points are resolved followed by de-escalation and de-induction of PLA forces packed across the East Ladakh LAC in occupied Aksai Chin region. It is quite evident that the PLA commanders are awaiting instructions from the top leadership to resolve the two remaining friction points.

However, the positive aspect of these on-going talks is that both sides understand each other’s positions on the border and are willing to address the issue without any time limit. Fact is that the 1986 Sumdorong Chu issue was settled between India and China after eight years with both sides conceding to accommodate each other.

Unlike in the past, the Narendra Modi government has no intentions of backing out on either Depsang Bulge and Demchok issues as in both cases it was the PLA which was the aggressor and not the Indian Army. The PLA in fact has consolidated its ground positions in both the sectors post May 2020 transgressions.

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    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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