India and China have agreed that both sides should take guidance from the consensus of the leaders that maintenance of peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) was essential for the further development of bilateral relations and that two sides should not allow differences to become disputes.
The mutual agreement came after a key phone call between Chinese Foreign Minister, State Councillor and Special Representative on the Sino-Indian Boundary Issue Wang Yi and Indian National Security Advisor and Special Representative Ajit Doval on Sunday.
Both the countries noted that it was necessary to ensure at the earliest complete disengagement of the troops along the LAC and de-escalation from India-China border areas for full restoration of peace and tranquillity.
In this regard they further agreed that both sides should complete the ongoing disengagement process along the LAC expeditiously. The two sides should also ensure a phased and stepwise de-escalation in the India-China border areas.
They re-affirmed that both sides should strictly respect and observe the LAC and should not take any unilateral action to alter the status quo and work together to avoid any incident in the future that could disturb peace and tranquillity in border areas.
The two Special Representatives agreed that the diplomatic and military officials of the two sides should continue their discussions, including under the framework of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China border affairs (WMCC), and implement the understandings reached in a timely manner to achieve the above outcomes.
It was also agreed that the two Special Representatives will continue their conversations to ensure full and enduring restoration of peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas in accordance with the bilateral agreements and protocols.
However, the Chinese statement on the talks, released on Monday, did not appear to be a climbdown from its stated position, even as it sought both sides adhere to strategic judgments and crucially not allow differences to become disputes.
Wang Yi said that this year is the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and India.
China-India relations have withstood the test of ups and downs, and it is not easy to achieve today’s development, he said.
“Not long ago, what happened in the western part of the border between China and India in the Galwan Valley is very clear. China will continue to effectively defend its territorial sovereignty and the border area and peace,” he said.
The Chinese foreign minister emphasised that the realisation of development and revitalisation is the first priority of China and India, and China and India share long-term common strategic interests in this general direction. The two sides should always adhere to strategic judgments that do not pose threats to each other and provide opportunities for development, attach great importance to the complex situation facing the current relationship between the two countries, and work together to overcome and reverse them as soon as possible, he added.
Following the talks, a disengagement process began in three of the four friction points along the LAC in Ladakh.
According to government sources quoted by PTI, the Chinese Army had started removing tents and moving back from Patrolling Point 14 as well as the Gogra Hot Spring of the Galwan Valley, in a first sign of disengagement of troops from the area.
Meanwhile, the disengagement process also comes in the wake of Prime Minister Narendra Modi visiting the forward areas in Ladakh on July 3. PM Modi was briefed by the Army, Air Force and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police at one of the forward locations in Nimu on the ground security situation.
On June 17, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had stated that the sacrifice made by 20 soldiers who went down fighting against the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) at Galwan Valley on June 15 night “will not go in vain”.
He also said that while India wants peace, it will give a “befitting reply” if provoked. “India’s integrity and sovereignty is supreme for us, and no one can stop us from defending it. Nobody should have any iota of doubt about this,” said Modi. “Indian troops went down fighting (maarte, maarte mare hain),” he had said.
The Indian and Chinese armies have been locked in a bitter standoff in multiple locations in eastern Ladakh for the last two months.
The tension escalated manifold after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a violent clash in Galwan Valley on June 15. The Chinese side also suffered casualties but it is yet to give out the details.
India and China have held several rounds of diplomatic and military talks in the last few weeks to ease tension in the region. However, there was no visible sign of end to the standoff though the two sides agreed to initiate disengagement of the forces from the region.
The last such talk — the third Corps Commander-level meeting after the first one on June 6 — was held on June 30 in Chushul on the Indian side.
After the June 6 meeting, the unprecedented violent clash took place in Galwan Valley on the night of June 15 at the LAC with Chinese People’s Liberation Army soldiers attacking a small group of Indian Army men on patrol, resulting in fatalities which included the commanding officer of the Indian Army.
Then, a second meeting was held on June 22, which was said to be held in a “cordial, positive and constructive atmosphere”. The Indian Army had stated that there was “mutual consensus to disengage” along the LAC.
However, defying the agreed mutual consensus to disengage, Chinese People’s Liberation Army troops returned to Patrolling Post 14 on the LAC in Galwan valley in eastern Ladakh. The PLA had even reportedly set up tents and an observation point exactly where it was on June 15, sources quoted by IANS said, adding that the Chinese troops returned with huge reinforcements even after they have agreed to withdraw their troops and dismantle their setups.
(With inputs from IANS)