The “big picture” advice in China’s diplomatic narrative appeared to suggest that Beijing doesn’t want the border tensions to impact other components of the relationship, such as trade and economic cooperation. (HT Photo)
The “big picture” advice in China’s diplomatic narrative appeared to suggest that Beijing doesn’t want the border tensions to impact other components of the relationship, such as trade and economic cooperation. (HT Photo)

‘Implement agreed actions’: India reminds China on disengagement at LAC

The external affairs ministry outlined India’s latest position on the protracted stand-off hours after the Chinese defence ministry said New Delhi should look at the “big picture” of bilateral ties and work with Beijing to bring the relationship back on track while avoiding misjudgements.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Beijing | By Rezaul H Laskar and Sutirtho Patranobis
UPDATED ON AUG 27, 2020 09:42 PM IST

India on Thursday emphasised the need for a diplomatic solution to the stand-off with China based on agreements on the border issue, saying the disengagement of troops can move forward only if both sides implement actions they have agreed on in several rounds of diplomatic and military talks.

The external affairs ministry outlined India’s latest position on the protracted stand-off hours after the Chinese defence ministry said New Delhi should look at the “big picture” of bilateral ties and work with Beijing to bring the relationship back on track while avoiding misjudgements.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava referred to remarks made in a recent interview by external affairs minister S Jaishankar, who noted that several border incidents in the past had all been resolved through diplomacy.

Jaishankar further said that “when it comes to finding a solution, this must be predicated on honouring all agreements and understandings” and “not attempting to alter the status quo unilaterally”, he added.

At the same time, Srivastava pointed out, India believes complete disengagement requires re-deployment of troops by both sides “towards their regular posts on their respective sides of the Line of Actual Control (LAC)”.

“It is natural that this can be done only through mutually agreed reciprocal actions. Thus, it is important to bear in mind that achieving this requires agreed actions by both sides,” he said.

In Beijing, defence ministry spokesperson Col Wu Qian told a monthly news briefing that China expects India to work with it to maintain peace and tranquillity on the border while “bearing in mind the big picture of bilateral ties and putting the border issue in an appropriate position in this big picture”.

India should “avoid misjudgement, keep divergences from escalating into disputes, and take concrete steps to bring the bilateral relations back to the right track of normal development”, Wu said.

Wu’s comments echoed remarks in a recent speech by China’s envoy to India, Sun Weidong, who described the June 15 border clash that killed 20 Indian soldiers as “a brief moment from the perspective of history”, and said the two sides should now “seek common ground while reserving differences”.

Like the Chinese foreign ministry, Wu’s statement, published on the official military website, put the onus on India to restore normalcy in ties, currently the worst in decades.

The remaining issues at the LAC should be handled properly and both sides further “cool down the China-India border situation”, Wu said.

The “big picture” advice in China’s diplomatic narrative appeared to suggest that Beijing doesn’t want the border tensions to impact other components of the relationship, such as trade and economic cooperation.

But it was evident at the end of the last meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs on August 20 that the two sides had been unable to bridge differences on troop disengagement.

New Delhi said there were “outstanding issues” that need to be resolved speedily at the meeting, and Jaishankar said in his recent interview the current situation was “surely the most serious situation” since the 1962 war, and that the “quantum of forces currently deployed by both sides at the LAC is also unprecedented”.

Srivastava said at the last meeting of WMCC, the two sides reaffirmed they will “continue to sincerely work towards complete disengagement of the troops” in line with agreements reached by the two foreign ministers and the two Special Representatives (SRs) during their conversation on July 5.

“Both sides also agree that full restoration of peace and tranquillity in the border areas would be essential for the overall development of bilateral relations. The two sides had also agreed to continue their engagements both through diplomatic and military channels,” Srivastava said.

Experts, however, believe the Chinese side is glossing over India’s concerns, with several statements from China’s foreign ministry projecting a positive picture of the disengagement process.

Former ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, distinguished fellow for foreign policy studies at Gateway House, said: “I think developments are moving in the expected direction, with the level being raised from the operational military and diplomatic level to the political level. The external affairs minister’s statement about the situation being the most serious since the 1962 war is the government’s position articulated by a cabinet minister.

“For the moment, we have no option but to talk to the Chinese but the gap between the two sides hasn’t been reduced at all. The Chinese are underplaying the seriousness of the situation, while India is emphasising the gravity and complexity of the total relationship with China.”

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