NEW DELHI: India and China have begun a long process of disengagement in eastern Ladakh, after NSA Ajit Doval spoke to Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister and special representative on Sunday evening. The conversation, which lasted two hours, saw the two SRs finalizing the elements of disengagement in eastern Ladakh and de-escalation along the LAC.
In similar statements on Monday, both China and India reaffirmed their agreement, which was essentially what had been agreed during the three rounds of talks between military commanders, as well as the June 17 conversation between S
and Wang Yi. The Indian statement said, “they agreed 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.”
The disengagement will be slow and verified certainly by the Indian side, given a complete lack of trust after the clashes of June 15, which were triggered when Indian troops found the Chinese side to be in violation of the understanding of June 6. The Doval-Wang conversation had its moments, said sources, with both men forcefully laying out their positions.
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Urging the quick completion of the “ongoing disengagement process along the LAC” the two sides agreed this would be followed by “a phased and stepwise de-escalation in the India-China border areas.” This is a reference to the huge build-up of troops and weapons all along the LAC.
The Chinese statement reflected the sentiments in the Indian one, but kept a more belligerent tone. A modified statement issued by the Chinese foreign ministry in the evening said, “The right and wrong of what recently happened at the Galwan Valley in the western sector of the China-India boundary is very clear. China will continue firmly safeguarding our territorial sovereignty as well as peace and tranquility in the border areas.” The Indian statement makes no reference to the clashes on the night of June 15.
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The Indian statement, which is longer, emphasised the agreement to “strictly respect and observe the line of actual control and not to take any unilateral action to alter the status quo.” China changed the status quo when its troops crossed the LAC in Galwan valley, Pangong Tso and Depsang plains, preventing Indian patrolling in these areas.
The Chinese statement emphasized that the consensus reached at the level of the two border defense forces at the military level should be implemented as quickly as possible to complete the disengagement process of the front-line forces of both sides as soon as possible.
India and China promised to continue discussions at the official level through the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) and between special representatives, and, as the Chinese side said, “hold non-stop meetings on the China-India Border Affairs Consultation and Coordination Working Mechanism, and constantly improve and strengthen confidence-building measures in the border area.”
The two sides agreed that the SRs would continue 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.”
A disengagement may be on the cards, but the bilateral relationship has taken a huge beating, which, Indian officials assess is much worse than during
. Repairing that will be a much longer haul.