Ladakh standoff: India, China agree to continue work towards complete disengagement at earliest
New Delhi: India and China on Friday agreed to continue work towards ensuring complete disengagement of troops in all friction points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh at the “earliest” as the two sides held a fresh round of diplomatic talks on the over seven-month long border standoff.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said it was also agreed at the talks that the next round of military dialogue should be held at an early date so that both sides can work towards an early and complete disengagement of troops in accordance with the existing bilateral agreements and protocols.
However, there was no indication of any breakthrough in the standoff at the virtual talks held under the framework of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on India-China border affairs.
“The two sides agreed that based on the guidance provided by senior leaders and the agreements reached between the two foreign ministers and special representatives, they would continue to work towards ensuring complete disengagement in all friction points along the LAC in the Western sector at the earliest,” the MEA said in a statement.
China on its part described the talks as “candid” with an “in-depth exchange” of views on the situation along the LAC, and noted that it was agreed to “earnestly implement” the five-point consensus reached between the foreign ministers of the two countries at a meeting in Moscow in September.
The MEA said the two sides reviewed the developments along the LAC since the last round of the WMCC talks held on September 30.
“The two sides noted that the seventh and eighth rounds of senior commanders meetings held on October 12 and November 6 respectively had in-depth discussions in this regard and that these discussions had also contributed to ensuring stability on the ground,” the MEA said.
It said both sides agreed to maintain close consultations at the diplomatic and military level.
“They agreed that the next round of senior commanders meeting should be held at an early date so that both sides can work towards early and complete disengagement of troops along the LAC in accordance with the existing bilateral agreements and protocols, and fully restore peace and tranquility,” it said.
The Indian delegation at the meeting was led by Naveen Srivastava, Joint Secretary (East Asia) in the MEA, while the Chinese side was headed by Hong Liang, Director-General of the Department of Boundary and Oceanic Affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry
Nearly 50,000 Indian Army troops are deployed in a high state of combat readiness in various mountainous locations in eastern Ladakh in sub-zero conditions as multiple rounds of talks between the two sides have not yielded concrete outcome to resolve the standoff. China has also deployed an equal number of troops, according to officials.
The talks came a day after India hoped that further discussions between the two countries will help to achieve an agreement on a mutually acceptable solution for ensuring complete disengagement in all friction points along the LAC in eastern Ladakh.
India and China have held several rounds of diplomatic and military talks in the last few months to resolve the standoff. However, no concrete breakthrough has been achieved so far.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi had held talks in Moscow on September 10 on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) conclave.
At the meeting, a five-point agreement was reached that included measures like quick disengagement of troops, avoiding action that could escalate tensions, adherence to all agreements and protocols on border management and steps to restore peace along the LAC.
The sixth, seventh and eighth rounds of military talks had focused on implementation of the five point agreement.
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi too had a lengthy telephonic conversation in early July during which they agreed on disengagement of the troops. Doval and Wang are special representatives for border talks between the two countries.
On Friday’s talks, China said both sides “spoke highly” of the outcomes of the eighth round of senior commanders meeting and agreed to continue dialogue and consultation through diplomatic and military channels.
“The two sides had candid and in-depth exchange of views on the situation along the LAC in the China-India border areas, agreed to earnestly implement the five-point consensus reached between the foreign ministers of both countries at the Moscow meeting, focused on the disengagement of front-line troops, and take concrete measures to deal with the issues on the ground to further deescalate the border situation,” a statement released by the Chinese embassy here said.
It further said: “The two sides spoke highly of the outcomes of the eighth round of senior commanders meeting, agreed to continue dialogue and consultation via diplomatic and military channels, hold the ninth round of senior commanders meeting as soon as possible, properly deal with the outstanding issues on the ground, and jointly maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas.”
The eighth and last round of military talks had taken place on November 6 during which both sides broadly discussed disengagement of troops from specific friction points.