India, China reach a five-point consensus to de-escalate tensions
However, reports suggest China sets up military base at Finger 5 of Pangong Lake
New Delhi: India and China have reached a five-point consensus to resolve the four-month-long military standoff in eastern Ladakh agreeing to “quickly disengage” troops, avoid action that could escalate tensions and take steps to restore “peace and tranquility” along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The agreement in which the two countries said the current situation in the border areas is not in the interest of either side was finalised during the “frank and constructive” talks between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on Thursday evening on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet.
The consensus during the talks that lasted two-and-a-half-hours came days after a fresh confrontation between the armies of the two countries on Monday in eastern Ladakh further escalating the standoff that erupted in May and triggering a massive military build-up by both sides in almost all friction points along the LAC, the de-facto border between the two countries.
Government sources said the five-point agreement will guide the approach of the two countries in tackling the current border situation.
“The two foreign ministers agreed that the current situation in the border areas is not in the interest of either side. They agreed therefore that the border troops of both sides should continue their dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain proper distance and ease tensions,” said a joint press statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in the early hours of Friday.
The five-point agreement has not mentioned any timeline for disengagement and restoration of peace and tranquility.
It said Jaishankar and Wang agreed that both sides shall abide by all the existing agreements and protocol on China-India boundary affairs, maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas and avoid any action that could escalate matters.
Significantly, the statement said the ministers agreed that as the situation eases, the two sides should expedite work to conclude “new confidence building measures” to maintain and enhance peace and tranquility in the border areas.
At the talks, the Indian delegation highlighted its strong concern over amassing of troops and military equipment by China along the LAC besides referring to “provocative behaviour” by Chinese army personnel at numerous incidents of friction, government sources said.
They said the Chinese side could not provide a credible explanation for the troops’ buildup.
The Indian side insisted that the immediate task is to ensure a comprehensive disengagement of troops in all the friction areas and that it is necessary to prevent any untoward incident in the future, the sources said.
The joint statement also said Jaishankar and Wang agreed that both sides should take guidance from the series of consensus reached between leaders of the two countries on developing India-China relations, including not allowing differences to become disputes.
It was clear that the reference was to the broad decision taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in the talks following the Doklam episode of 2017.
“The two sides also agreed to continue to have dialogue and communication through the Special Representative mechanism on the India-China boundary question,” the joint statement said.
“They also agreed in this context that the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China border affairs (WMCC), should also continue its meetings,” it said. Foreign Minister Wang and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval are special representatives for the boundary talks.
The meeting between Jaishankar and Wang was the second highest political contact between the two countries in a week. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Chinese counterpart Gen. Wei Fenghe had also met in Moscow September 04 on the sidelines of another SCO meet.
A press release issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing quoted Wang as having told Jaishankar that it is normal for both the countries to have differences but it is important to put them in proper context and take the guidance of the leaders.
“Wang noted that it is normal for China and India to have differences as two neighbouring major countries. What is important is to put these differences in a proper context vis-a-vis bilateral relations,” the release said.
Wang stressed that as two large developing countries are emerging rapidly, what China and India need right now is cooperation, not confrontation; and mutual trust, not suspicion, the release added.
“Whenever the situation gets difficult, it is all the more important to ensure the stability of the overall relationship and preserve mutual trust,” Wang said.
“China-India relations have once again come to a crossroads. But as long as the two sides keep moving the relationship in the right direction, there will be no difficulty or challenge that can’t be overcome,” Wang added.
Indian government sources said the Indian side clearly conveyed during the talks that it expected full adherence to all agreements on management of border areas and would not countenance any attempt to change the status quo unilaterally.
“It was also emphasized that the Indian troops had scrupulously followed all agreements and protocols pertaining to the management of the border areas,” said a source.
Jaishankar told Wang that maintenance of peace and tranquility on the border areas was essential to the forward development of ties, the sources said.
He conveyed to his Chinese counterpart that the recent incidents in eastern Ladakh, however, inevitably impacted the development of the bilateral relationship.
Therefore, the Indian leader told Wang that an urgent resolution of the current situation was in the interest of both the nations, the sources said.
However, some other news agencies reported that China has set up a military base near Finger 5, in the north bank of Pangong Lake, completely cutting off the Indian Army.
The north bank of the lake is divided into 8 Fingers (fingers are mountain spurs jutting into a lake in military parlance) that are contested by both sides.
India claims the Line of Actual Control at Finger 8 and had been holding on to area till Finger 4 but in a clear alteration of status quo, the Chinese have been camping at Finger 4 and have set up fortifications between Finger 5 and 8.
Two months ago, Indian intelligence agencies flagged that cranes, concrete mixture trucks, and other building construction machinery were spotted near Finger 5. They had also flagged that China is making military barracks and offices. Sources said China has stationed hundreds of thousands of troops as well materials at these bases. They have placed tanks, artillery guns and other military armaments at Finger 5.
At Finger 8, troops from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have set up barracks and constructed underground tunnels. They have set up huge military infrastructure at Finger 8.
Till last year, there was no military infrastructure work carried out in these disputed areas and Indian Army troops used to carry out patrols. There have been regular face-offs between the two armies between Finger 4 and Finger 8, a distance of eight kilometres, on the northern bank of the lake.
As a precautionary measure, Indian troops have occupied some heights overlooking the positions occupied by the PLA.
The movement of Indian Army troops beyond Finger 4 is completely cut off, sources said, owing to provocative Chinese military movements.
Russia welcomes decision
Moscow: Russia on Friday welcomed India and China’s decison to de-escalate tensions in eastern Ladakh, with foreign minister Sergei Lavrov saying he was “very happy” that he could provide his Indian and Chinese counterparts a platform for a “very well timed” meeting.
Addressing a joint press conference here with his Chinese counterpart Wang after bilateral talks, Lavrov noted that the foreign ministers of the three countries had very productive meetings on Thursday under the Russia, India and China (RIC) format.
“We are very happy that Moscow has presented a platform to Russia, China and India to have this very productive, fruitful meeting whose goal is to stablise the situation on the border between India and China,” Lavrov said while a reporter sought his comments on the India-China roadmap to deescalate tensions along their borders.
“It was a very productive and very well timed meeting and I am very happy that it happened,” he said on the bilateral meeting between Jaishankar and Wang.
Ahead of the meeting between Jaishankar and Wang, a senior Russian diplomat in New Delhi had expressed confidence that India and China will be able to resolve the border standoff through dialogue.
Deputy Chief of the Russian embassy Roman Babushkin said Moscow would like to see “de-escalation and disengagement” through talks in eastern Ladakh.
“We hope that India and China will find a solution to the border issues through dialogue,” he said at an online interaction with journalists in New Delhi on Tuesday.
His comments came a day after tension escalated in eastern Ladakh following a fresh confrontation between Indian and Chinese troops in the region.
“We are not participating in the resolution of disputes between the two countries. We are focusing on the creation of a positive atmosphere for it,” Babushkin said, ruling out the possibility of Russia playing the role of a mediator unless it is asked to do so by both India and China.
The Russian diplomat said though the SCO Charter doesn’t allow any bilateral dispute to be taken up, the bloc provides a platform to create mutual trust and finding common ground between member countries.
Jaishankar’s trip to Moscow happened days after Defence Minister Singh visited the Russian capital to attend a meeting of SCO defence ministers.
Def min holds high-level meeting
New Delhi Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and top military brass on Friday deliberated on the five-point agreement reached between India and China on de-escalating tension along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, government sources said.
The deliberation was attended by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, Chief of Army Staff Gen MM Naravane, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria and Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh among others, they said.
The meeting also carried out a comprehensive review of the security scenario in eastern Ladakh in view of fresh confrontation by two sides in the southern bank of Pangong lake earlier this week, the sources said.
“The meeting discussed the agreement reached between the two countries,” said a source.
In the meeting, Gen Naravane briefed about the combat readiness of the Army to deal with any eventualities besides elaborating on plans to keep the forces in the high-altitude region during harsh winter months.
India and China reached a five-point consensus to resolve the four-month border row in eastern Ladakh that included quick disengagement of troops, avoiding action that could escalate tensions and taking steps to restore “peace and tranquillity” along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The agreement was finalised at two-and-half-hours of “frank and constructive” talks between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on Thursday evening on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet.
The mountainous spurs in the area are referred to as Finger. China has been holding onto Finger 4 to 8 on the north bank of Pangong lake, the sources said.