India again tells China to strictly respect the LAC
Both countries said on Thursday they will continue meetings through diplomatic and military channels to take forward the disengagement.Updated: Jul 10, 2020 01:14 IST
India on Thursday again rejected China’s claim on the Galwan Valley and said the Line of Actual Control (LAC) must be strictly respected, a day ahead of a meeting of diplomats of the two sides to build on the de-escalation and disengagement process underway in the Ladakh sector.
Both countries said on Thursday they will continue meetings through diplomatic and military channels to take forward the disengagement. People familiar with developments, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs will on Friday hold its third virtual meeting since the beginning of the border standoff between the two countries.
The people said corps commanders of the two sides are expected to meet in the Ladakh sector next week, though the date is yet to be finalised, to discuss the next steps in disengagement and de-escalation.
India is moving forward with great caution in the disengagement process after the worst crisis along LAC in decades. Troops from both sides have pulled back in a limited manner at key friction points along LAC since the Special Representatives on the border issue – India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and China’s foreign minister Wang Yi – held a phone conversation on Sunday. The two agreed that peace and tranquillity along the border are essential for the overall development of bilateral ties.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava spelled out India’s position on the disengagement process during a weekly virtual news briefing. He said recent Chinese claims on the Galwan Valley are “exaggerated and untenable”. Srivastava added LAC “must be strictly respected” and observed “this is the basis for peace and tranquillity in the border areas”.
Neither side should take any unilateral action to alter LAC, he said. “We remain convinced of the need for maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas and the resolution of differences through dialogue. At the same time, we are also strongly committed to ensuring India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, said the situation in the western sector of the disputed border was “improving”. He added there will be another round of dialogue under the WMCC mechanism.
“Following the consensus reached at the commander-level talks, China-India border troops have taken effective measures to disengage at the frontline in the Galwan Valley and other areas,” Zhao said.
“The situation along the border is stable and improving. The two sides will continue dialogue and communication through military and diplomatic channels including by holding [a] meeting of the WMMC on border affairs.”
He did not give details of the disengagement or protocols that the People’s Liberation Army is following to pull back troops and equipment.
The corps commanders have so far met on June 6, 22 and 30. WMCC has held two virtual meetings on June 5 and 24. On Tuesday, the Chinese foreign ministry told HT its troops had begun to disengage from the Galwan Valley.
Zhao said China hopes “India will work together with us to take concrete action and implement the consensus reached and jointly work for de-escalation along the border.”
Srivastava said Doval, during his conversation with Wang, “conveyed categorically India’s position on recent developments along the LAC, including in the Galwan Valley area”. He added Doval “emphasised in this context that the Indian troops had always taken a very responsible approach towards border management and at the same time, our forces were deeply committed to ensuring India’s sovereignty and security”.
Srivastava noted the two shared the view that it was necessary to “ensure at the earliest complete disengagement of the troops along the LAC and de-escalation in the India-China border areas for full restoration of peace and tranquillity in accordance with bilateral agreements and protocols”.
He pointed out one of the key provisions of these agreements is the commitment by both sides to “strictly respect and observe the LAC”. Srivastava said Doval and Wang also agreed the two sides “should work together to avoid any incident in the future that could disturb peace and tranquillity”.
Experts believe the disengagement and de-escalation process could be long-drawn.
Jayadeva Ranade, president of the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy, said: “I would not be surprised if the disengagement process stretches on for some time. The disengagement is being done point by point, and 72 hours is set aside for verification at each point. But even now, disengagement at Pangong Lake, Depsang, and Demchok has not even come up.
“In the worst-case scenario, the Chinese would have no hesitation in stretching it till winter. They have got all the infrastructure in place but this is not a problem for us. It is a good sign that the Indian Army is leading the discussions on the ground because there will be some more tough negotiations ahead.”
Ranade said the imminent threat has been deferred but India cannot let down its guard. “For the Chinese, it is an unfinished chapter.”