India on China, month after frigid Round 13 of talks: ‘Both agree on ensuring stable ground, no untoward incident’

More than a month since India and China hardened their positions after making no headway in the 13th round of Corps Commander-level talks, diplomats from the two countries agreed Thursday on the “need to find an early resolution to the remaining issues along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh while fully abiding by bilateral agreements and protocols so as to restore peace and tranquility”.

An official statement by the Ministry of External Affairs, after the 23rd meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation & Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC), said, “The two sides also agreed that both sides should in the interim also continue to ensure a stable ground situation and avoid any untoward incident.”

The MEA statement said that the two sides recalled the agreement between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and the Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi during their meeting in September in Dushanbe that military and diplomatic officials should continue their discussions to resolve the remaining issues along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh.

“Accordingly, the two sides had candid and in-depth discussions on the situation along the LAC in Western Sector of India-China Border Areas and also reviewed the developments since the last meeting of the Senior Commanders of both sides which was held on 10th October 2021,” the statement said.

The Indian delegation was led by Additional Secretary (East Asia) from the Ministry of External Affairs. The Director General of the Boundary & Oceanic Department of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs led the Chinese delegation.

It also said that “it was agreed that both sides should hold the next (14th) round of the Senior Commanders meeting at an early date to achieve the objective of complete disengagement from all the friction points along the LAC in the Western Sector in accordance with the existing bilateral agreements and protocols”.

A year-and-a-half into the military standoff on the LAC in eastern Ladakh, India and China had hardened their positions last month on October 10 after making no headway in the 13th round of Corps Commander-level talks to try and resolve the situation at Hot Springs.

On October 11, a day after the talks at the Moldo border personnel meeting point near Chushul, India and China, in their sharpest exchange since the Galwan Valley clash in June 2020 and stepped-up diplomatic efforts thereafter to reach a negotiated solution, blamed each other for the failure to make progress over Hot Springs.

Troops have disengaged on the north and south banks of Pangong Tso and Gogra Post, but not at Hot Springs, where they continue to face each other ever since the Chinese crossed the LAC in May 2020. The Chinese have also been preventing Indian troops from accessing traditional patrolling points on the Depsang Plains, not far from the strategic Indian outpost at Daulat Beg Oldie near the Karakoram Pass in the north.

India said its delegation had made “constructive suggestions” on resolving the situation in the “remaining areas” but the Chinese side “was not agreeable” and also “could not provide any forward-looking proposals”. Earlier, China accused India of raising what it called “unreasonable and unrealistic demands” which, it said, “added difficulties to the negotiations”.

This sharp exchange of words was a departure from the past, where the two sides had been issuing joint statements displaying common understanding of the meeting outcomes.

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