Army trucks move towards Ladakh.
Army trucks move towards Ladakh.

Need to work jointly to end tension: India

The external affairs ministry emphasised the need to complete the disengagement process “at the earliest” shortly after Indian envoy Vikram Misri met a senior general of China’s Central Military Commission (CMC) in Beijing to brief him on New Delhi’s views on the situation along the border in eastern Ladakh.
By Rezaul H Laskar and Sutirtho Patranobis | Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Beijing
UPDATED ON AUG 15, 2020 12:40 AM IST

India on Friday called on China to work jointly for “complete disengagement and de-escalation” on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), saying the future of the bilateral relationship is dependent on the situation along the disputed frontier.

The external affairs ministry emphasised the need to complete the disengagement process “at the earliest” shortly after Indian envoy Vikram Misri met a senior general of China’s Central Military Commission (CMC) in Beijing to brief him on New Delhi’s views on the situation along the border in eastern Ladakh.

Misri’s meeting with Maj Gen Ci Guowei, director of CMC’s office of international military cooperation, came two days after the envoy met Liu Jianchao, deputy director of the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) central committee’s foreign affairs commission. The meetings are part of India’s outreach to the Chinese leadership to resolve the standoff.

President Xi Jinping heads CMC, which is responsible for the administration of the armed forces. Misri briefed Maj Gen Ci on “India’s stance vis-à-vis the situation on the borders in eastern Ladakh UT (union territory)”, the Indian embassy tweeted without giving details.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava told a news briefing that several meetings of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs and corps commanders had discussed the implementation of the disengagement process and “further steps to ensure it is completed at the earliest”. More meetings are likely “in the near future”, he said.

“We, therefore, expect the Chinese side to sincerely work with us towards the objective of complete disengagement and de-escalation and full restoration of peace and tranquillity in the border areas as agreed by the Special Representatives,” Srivastava said.

“This is also necessary and essential in the context of the overall development of our bilateral relationship. As external affairs minister [S Jaishankar] had noted in a recent interview, the state of the border and the future of our ties cannot be separated,” he added.

Srivastava said completing the disengagement as soon as possible will require the two sides to work together. “While we would like the ongoing disengagement process to be completed at the earliest, it is important to bear in mind that achieving this requires agreed actions by both sides,” he said.

The process of thinning out tens of thousands of troops deployed by both sides has run into problems at some friction points, particularly Pangong Lake and Depsang, people familiar with developments said.

Srivastava noted both sides had made “some progress” after reaching agreement on the broad principles of disengagement, but more needs to be done. He said, “Translating these principles on the ground is a complex process that requires redeployment of troops by each side towards their regular posts on their respective sides of the LAC.”

He added, “It is natural that this can be done only through mutually agreed reciprocal actions.”

Engagements through diplomatic and military channels to ensure complete disengagement are in line with the agreement of the Special Representatives on the border issue – National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and foreign minister Wang Yi – that “early and complete disengagement of the troops along the LAC and de-escalation from India-China border areas in accordance with bilateral agreements and protocols and full restoration of peace and tranquillity was essential for the smooth overall development of bilateral relations”, Srivastava said.

The Indian envoy’s two meetings in Beijing this week followed several rounds of diplomatic and military negotiations held since June. They also came against the backdrop of experts suggesting political intervention at the highest level is required to end the impasse.

The Indian embassy hasn’t shared details of the two meetings, or, for that matter, why they were held as the Communist party hierarchy and the Chinese government are aware of India’s stance on the border. The Chinese side too has been silent on the meetings

At the top of the hierarchies of CPC and the government is President Xi, who is the general secretary of CPC and chair of CMC.

Chinese troops are said to have pulled back from the Galwan Valley, the scene of the June 15 clash that resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers and unspecified Chinese casualties, and some friction points, but the troop withdrawal hasn’t moved forward in the Finger Areas of Pangong Lake, Gogra and Depsang.

Sameer Patil, a fellow for international security studies at Gateway House, said the Indian envoy’s meetings in Beijing reflected a fresh effort by the leadership in New Delhi to push forward the disengagement after discussions at the diplomatic and military levels failed to yield results.

“Between the bad and worse options available to India, the best way out is political intervention at the highest level. However, if the Chinese side doesn’t show any inclination to disengage even after this, that is a signal with significant implications and it could further jeopardise the entire relationship,” he said.

“India has very little manoeuvring room left as domestic opinion is completely anti-China. It is now a game of who blinks first,” he added.

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