India-china military talks on LAC troop pullback hit a hurdle
The standoff: New Delhi, Beijing blame each other
There was no agreement on troop pullback between the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) during the 13th round of the Corps Commander-level talks held on October 10 at the Chushul-moldo border meeting point in Ladakh.
After negotiating mutual troop withdrawal from the Galwan sector in June 2020, from the Pangong Tso sector on February 11 and from Gogra and Hot Spring sectors on July 31, the discussions on Sunday focused on resolution of the remaining issues along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh.
That meant implementing the agreed pullback in the Gogra sector, which has apparently run into trouble; and also disengagement in the Depsang-daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) sector, which the PLA has refused to discuss from the outset of the crisis.
A Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) statement, issued in Delhi on Monday, said the situation along the LAC had been caused by “unilateral attempts of Chinese side to alter the status quo and in violation of the bilateral agreements. It was therefore necessary that the Chinese side take appropriate steps in the remaining areas so as to restore peace and tranquility.”
In an unusually blunt statement, the MEA said that India had “made constructive suggestions for resolving the remaining areas but the Chinese side was not agreeable and also could not provide any forward-looking proposals. The meeting thus did not result in resolution of the remaining areas.”
The MEA pointed out that resolving the border face-off “would also be in accord with the guidance provided by the two Foreign Ministers in their recent meeting in Dushanbe where they had agreed that the two sides should resolve the remaining issues at the earliest.”
Meanwhile, China’s Western Theatre Command was equally blunt, even threatening. “Instead of misjudging the situation, the Indian side should cherish the hard-won situation in China-india border areas,” said its spokesperson, Senior Colonel Long Shaohua.
Long said: “During the meeting, the Chinese side made great efforts to promote the easing and cooling of the border situation… However, the Indian side still persisted in its unreasonable and unrealistic demands, which added difficulties to the negotiations.”
The spokesperson pointed out that China is firm in its resolve to safeguard national sovereignty.
Both the Indian and Chinese spokespersons cited the need to adhere to the various border agreements reached between the two sides. New Delhi urged the “early resolution of the remaining issues while fully abiding by bilateral agreements and protocols.”
Meanwhile the Chinese spokesperson said: “The Indian side should abide by the relevant agreements and consensus reached between the two countries and two militaries.”
There are five main Sino-indian agreements relating to the border. These include a September 1993 “Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity Along the Line of Actual Control in the Indiachina Border Areas”. That was followed by the November 1996 agreement on “Confidence-building Measures in the Military Field along the Line of Actual Control in the India-china Border Areas”. Then came an April 2005 agreement, similarly titled “Modalities for the Implementation of Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field along the Line of Actual Control in the India-china Border Areas”.
These were followed by two agreements in the realm of border management: the “Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-china Border Affairs”, signed in January 2012; and the “Border Defence Cooperation Agreement”, signed in October 2013.
These five agreements have failed to calm the LAC. Instead, there was a threeweek-long standoff at Depsang, Ladakh in April 2013; followed by a 16-day face-off at Chumar, Ladakh in September 2014; and then a tense 73-day confrontation at Doklam, Bhutan in June-august 2017.
Striking a lone conciliatory note, the MEA statement from New Delhi said: “The two sides have agreed to maintain communications and also to maintain stability on the ground.”
China’s state-owned English language newspaper, Global Times, cited Qian Feng of Tsinghua University as saying that the Chinese statement suggests that India attempted to push China to make concessions in India’s favour, which was detrimental from the perspective of China’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and security.”
“While China focuses on the big picture, wanting both sides to meet each other half way, its patience has run out, and it had to shatter India’s arrogant thoughts with the statement,” Qian said.