External Affairs Minister calls for China to follow through on disengagement agreement.
The impasse between Indian and Chinese troops at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is “visibly impacting” bilateral ties “negatively”, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar told Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi as they met in Dushanbe on the sidelines of the SCO meeting on Wednesday. Highlighting the lack of movement in the disengagement process apart from the initial withdrawal of troops around the Pangong lake area earlier this year, Mr. Jaishankar said India had hoped China would “follow through” in resolving issues at the LAC, as had been agreed in a five-point agreement with Mr. Wang when the two Ministers had last met in Moscow last September. “Highlighted that unilateral change of status quo is not acceptable. Full restoration and maintenance of peace and tranquillity in border areas is essential for development of our ties,” Mr. Jaishankar said in a tweet after the hour-long meeting.
While Indian and Chinese troops completed the first round of disengagement in February 2021, withdrawing from areas and posts around the Pangong lake, officials have said China continues to stall talks on withdrawing from the other areas where PLA troops have amassed since April 2020, including at Depsang, Gogra and Hotsprings areas in Ladakh.
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“[Mr. Jaishankar] pointed out to State Councillor [Mr. Wang] that the successful disengagement in the Pangong Lake Area earlier this year had created conditions for resolving the remaining issues. It was expected that the Chinese side would work with us towards this objective. EAM noted however that the situation in remaining areas is still unresolved,” a statement by the Ministry of External Affairs said.
Ahead of the Foreign Ministers’ meeting, however, both New Delhi and Beijing denied reports of fresh tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The Army also insisted that the agreements with China have not ‘collapsed’ as claimed in an article published on Wednesday.
“Ever since the disengagement agreement in February this year, there has been no attempt by either side to occupy the areas from where the disengagement had been undertaken. There have been no clashes in Galwan or any other area,” the Army statement said. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said he was not “aware of the situation mentioned” in the report as well.
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Mr. Jaishankar and Mr. Wang “agreed to remain in touch”, as India hoped that “all remaining issues” would be discussed at the next round of Senior Military Commanders talks as decided by the WMCC group on June 25.
In contrast to their last meeting in Moscow, there was no joint statement issued by the two sides after the Jaishankar-Wang meeting. According to the MEA statement, Mr. Jaishankar also made it clear that other bilateral relations on other issues could not proceed successfully unless the present LAC situation is resolved.
“The EAM recalled that both sides had agreed that a prolongation of the existing situation was not in the interest of either side. It was visibly impacting the relationship in a negative manner,” the statement said, calling the maintenance of peace as the ‘foundation’ for the development of ties since 1988.
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Though trade in the first half of 2021 rose by a record 62.7% this year, other bilateral engagements have been curtailed. After the clashes at Galwan last year, India banned a number of Chinese apps and placed its investment in projects on hold.
Unlike previous years, when the leaders met and spoke at a number of occasions, there has been no bilateral conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping since the crisis began and India has, conspicuously, not sent greetings to the Chinese Communist Party for its centenary celebrations this month.
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