Disengagement key for progress in ties, India tells China

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De-escalation in Eastern Ladakh alone will lead to the restoration of peace and tranquility, says MEA

India expects China to work with it to ensure complete disengagement “at the earliest” along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which was key to restoring the relationship, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Friday.

The foreign ministers of both countries, S. Jaishankar and Wang Yi, in a phone call on February 25 reviewed the status of disengagement, which has been completed on the north and south banks of Pangong lake and is in progress in other areas along the LAC. Both ministers also agreed to establish a hotline.

Also read: LAC standoff | 10 patrolling points in eastern Ladakh blocked by Chinese People’s Liberation Army, says senior official

It was India’s “expectation that the Chinese side will work with us, both through the WMCC [Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on border affairs] and Senior Commanders’ meetings, to ensure that disengagement in the remaining areas is completed at the earliest,” MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said. “This would allow both sides to consider de-escalation of forces in Eastern Ladakh as that alone will lead to the restoration of peace and tranquility and provide conditions for progress in our bilateral relationship,” he noted.

Commanders’ meeting

The senior military commanders in their last meeting on February 20 noted “the disengagement in the Pangong lake area was a significant step forward and it provided a good basis for the resolution of other remaining issues along the LAC”, he stated.

Also read: India-China LAC standoff | India being tested, will meet national security challenge: Jaishankar

Since the meeting, there has been no official word so far on the progress of disengagement in the Gogra-Hot Springs area and in Demchok. There are also long-persisting tensions involving the blocking of patrols in the Depsang plains, which Indian officials have said predated the current crisis.

Mr. Jaishankar had, in the phone call, underlined the message that both sides “have always agreed that maintenance of peace and tranquility in the border areas was an essential basis for the development of bilateral relations” and “a prolongation of the existing situation was not in the interest of either side.”

A MEA statement after the phone call noted India’s view that restoring normalcy to the broader relationship would first require complete disengagement and then de-escalation. Troops on both sides remain present in large numbers in depth areas and have not yet returned to their normal positions in peacetime. “It was necessary to disengage at all friction points in order to contemplate de-escalation of forces in this sector,” the statement said. “That alone will lead to the restoration of peace and tranquility and provide conditions for progress of our bilateral relationship.”

China’s position

 China has conveyed a different position on restoration of ties, and called on India to put the border dispute in a “proper” position. “While that the two countries have boundary disputes is an objective fact, which should be taken seriously, it is not the whole of China-India relations, and it should be put at a proper place in the overall bilateral relations,” Mr. Wang told Mr. Jaishankar according to a statement from Beijing. It added that “there has been some wavering and backpedalling in India’s China policy” because of which “practical cooperation between the two countries has been affected.”

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