No breakthrough at India-China meet, only agree to continue talks on LAC standoff
This was the first meeting of the WMCC in more than four months, reflecting the differences between the two sides on the border standoff
NEW DELHI: India and China were unable to make any breakthrough in another round of diplomatic talks on Friday on the standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), with the two sides saying they would continue discussions to resolve the remaining issues on the border.
The two sides have been locked in the military standoff on the LAC since May 2020 and have arrayed more than 50,000 troops each in Ladakh sector. After more than two dozen rounds of diplomatic and military talks, they withdrew frontline troops from the two banks of the Pangong Lake, Gogra and Hot Springs. However, they have been unable to reach an understanding on friction points such as Depsang and Demchok.
“The two sides agreed to continue discussions through diplomatic and military channels to resolve the remaining issues along the LAC at the earliest so as to create conditions for restoration of normalcy in bilateral relations,” said a statement issued by the external affairs ministry after the meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs.
“To achieve the objective of resolution of remaining issues along the LAC in the Western Sector in accordance with the existing bilateral agreements and protocols, they agreed to hold the next (17th) round of the Senior Commanders meeting at an early date,” the statement said, referring to the mechanism of military talks.
The last meeting of the senior military commanders of the two sides was held on July 17 and led to the disengagement of troops at Hot Springs in mid-September.
A readout issued by the Chinese foreign ministry in Beijing said the two sides “positively evaluated the results of the preliminary disengagement of border troops” and “fully affirmed the effectiveness of the previous diplomatic-military communication”.
The two sides are also “willing to take measures to further ease the border situation and promote the border situation from emergency response status to normalised control”, the readout said.
The Chinese readout further said that the two sides put forward “constructive proposals and agreed to hold the 17th round of military commander-level talks as soon as possible”.
This was the first meeting of the WMCC in more than four months, reflecting the differences between the two sides on the border standoff.
The two sides also reviewed the situation along the LAC in the western sector of the India-China border areas at Friday’s meeting.
“Recalling the developments since the last meeting of WMCC in May 2022, they welcomed the disengagement in the area of Gogra-Hot Springs (PP-15) that was carried out in a phased, coordinated and verified manner between 8-12 September 2022,” the statement said.
The two sides “noted that these steps reflected the understandings” between external affairs minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, including at their recent meeting on the margins of a meeting of G20 foreign ministers in Bali in July.
The Indian delegation at Friday’s meeting was led by Shilpak Ambule, joint secretary (East Asia) in the external affairs ministry, while Hong Liang, the director general of the boundary and oceanic department of China’s foreign ministry, led the Chinese side.
The Indian delegation at Friday’s meeting was led by the joint secretary (East Asia) in the external affairs ministry while the director general of the boundary and oceanic department of China’s foreign ministry led the Chinese side.
The Chinese side has insisted in recent months that the border standoff should be put in its “appropriate place” in the overall bilateral relationship, while the two sides take forward ties in areas such as trade and investment. The Indian side has maintained that the overall relationship cannot be normalised till peace and tranquillity is restored along the LAC.
India recently pushed back against Chinese envoy Sun Weidong’s remarks about the return of stability to the LAC and said only disengagement and de-escalation can ensure normalcy on the border. Sun contended during a speech on September 27 that the situation on the border is “overall stable” and the two countries had moved from the “emergency response” that followed the clash in Galwan Valley in June 2020 to “normalised management and control”.