New Delhi: Even as China on Tuesday once again blamed India for instigating the new standoff, New Delhi accused Beijing of attempting a second “provocative action” on August 31 just as military level talks were being held to resolve the earlier Saturday night intrusion at the southern bank of Pangong Tso lake.
The mention of the second move was made by Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava, who issued a statement on Tuesday evening. On Monday, the two military wings had traded charges. A day later, verbal exchanges extended to the foreign office.
On Monday, the Indian Army said that it had thwarted ‘provocative military movements’ from China whose army had intruded into the southern bank of the Pangong Tso lake in eastern Ladakh. This is a new area where India and China are now engaged in a stand-off as border tensions remain ongoing with China. Earlier, the stand-off had largely been limited to Galwan valley, Pangong Tso’s northern shore, Hot Springs, and Depsang.
A day later, the Chinese embassy in India began the verbal volley, with the spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry joining later in the day. Both of them asserted that the Indian Army had crossed the Line of Actual Control on August 31 (Monday) at two places in Pangong Tso and Reqin pass.
Till now, the Chinese accusations of Indian action had been especially puzzling due to the difference in dates. The Indian Army had claimed that China had attempted to change the status quo of the LAC at southern bank on Pangong Tso lake on Saturday night (August 29-30), while Chinese officials only spoke of Indian actions on August 31.
The latest statement from the Indian side has cleared the air, with a new event added to the recent timeline.
After reiterating that India had only responded to China’s actions on August 29-30, Srivastava stated, “Furthermore, yesterday on 31st August, even as the ground commanders of the two sides were in discussions to de-escalate the situation, the Chinese troops again engaged in provocative action”.
He said that due to “timely defensive action”, India was “able to prevent these attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo”. A reference to status quo usually refers to whether the situation on the ground with relation to the Line of Actual Control has been changed or not.
The MEA spokesperson noted that all of China’s behaviour this year has been violation of bilateral border agreements and have shown “complete disregard to the understandings reached between the two Foreign Ministers as also the Special Representatives”.
There had been high-level conversations between the two countries after the deadly Galwan valley clash in June.
Referring to the recent incidents, the MEA said that India has taken up the matter with China “through both diplomatic and military channels and have urged them to discipline and control their frontline troops from undertaking such provocative actions”.
“The Indian side is firmly committed to resolve all outstanding issues along the LAC in the Western Sector through peaceful dialogue. In this context, we expect the Chinese side to sincerely abide by the understanding reached earlier and earnestly work with the India to resolve the situation and to restore peace and tranquility in the border areas,” added Srivastava.
Earlier on Tuesday, Chinese embassy spokesperson Ji Rong echoed the phrases of the PLA spokesperson, asserting that India had crossed the Line of Actual Control at multiple locations on the southern bank of the Pangong Tso lake.
“On August 31st, Indian troops violated the consensus reached in previous multi-level engagements and negotiations between China and India, illegally trespassed the Line of Actual Control again at the southern bank of the Pangong Tso Lake and near the Reqin Pass in the western sector of China-India border, and conducted flagrant provocations, which again stirred tension in the border areas,” said spokesperson Ji.
Her statement again noted that Indian troops had “trespassed” the LAC on August 31. India had accused China of the same on the night of August 29-30.
When reporters pointed out the two different dates and asked whether they could be construed as two separate incidents, the Chinese embassy spokesperson said that it was the “same thing”.
She added that India’s move had “violated China’s territorial sovereignty, seriously violated relevant agreements, protocols and important consensus reached between the two countries, and severely damaged peace and tranquility along the China-India border areas”.
Ji claimed that “what India has done” is counter to efforts to bring down tension on the group – “and China is resolutely opposed to this”.
“China has made solemn representations to the Indian side, urged the Indian side to strictly control and restrain its frontline troops, earnestly honor its commitments, immediately stop all the provocative actions, immediately withdraw its troops illegally trespassing the Line of Actual Control, immediately stop any actions leading to the escalation and complication of the situation,” said the embassy spokesperson.
The actions have renewed tensions in eastern Ladakh, where negotiations on implementing the disengagement process had stalled over China’s refusal to go back to its previous position in Pangong Tso Lak and Depsang. The disengagement process had begun as a result of the violent face-off at Galwan valley on June 15, when 20 Indian soldiers and unverified number of Chinese troops were killed after hours of hand-to-hand fight.
The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson in Beijing, Hua Chunying also added to the chorus from China.
“Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China more than 70 years ago, we have never initiated a war or conflict, and never taken an inch of land that is not ours. In fact, China’s border troops have been strictly abiding by the LAC and they’ve never trespassed,” she stated on Tuesday at the daily media briefing.
She added that China has noted Indian media reports of deployment of additional troops at border areas. “If proven true, such a move runs counter to the shared wish of the two peoples, which is to live in peace and ensure a sound and steady development of China-India relations. We hope that India will take China’s concerns seriously and take concrete actions to ensure the peace and tranquility of the border areas and the sound development of China-India relations,” said Hua
Meanwhile, foreign minister Wang Yi had stated on Sunday at the French Institute of International Relations in Paris that there were “problems” at the border with India, as the boundary had not been demarcated yet.
The transcript of his interaction was released on Tuesday by the Chinese foreign ministry.
While China will safeguard its territorial integrity, Wang added, “We are ready to manage all kinds of issues through dialogue with the Indian side.”
India has been calling for clarification of the Line of Actual Control through exchange of maps, but China has explicitly stated that it does not want to restart this process that halted in 2002.
“The purpose of clarification of LAC is to maintain peace and tranquility. When we look back into history, if one side has unilaterally put its own perception on the LAC during the negotiations, that will lead to disputes. That’s why, this process cannot be move on,” Chinese ambassador to India, Sun Weidong said on July 30.
Note: This article has been updated with the statement from the spokesperson of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.