New Delhi: Two days after a joint press release was issued after talks between senior Indian and Chinese military commanders, India clarified on Thursday that the discussions were about “stabilising” the situation at the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
On Monday, senior military commanders met for the sixth time since the start of the stand-off between the armies in eastern Ladakh in early May. It was, however, the first meeting since the foreign ministers had met in Moscow and agreed on five guiding principles for the disengagement process. The talks also had a new participant from the Indian side, with a senior official from the Ministry of External Affairs joining the military commanders.
After 14 hours of talks on Monday, a joint press note was issued a day later that included, among other things, a consensus on not sending more troops to the frontline and avoiding a unilateral change in the ground situation.
Since Chinese troops had already changed the situation on the ground by intruding further into Indian territory and triggering the stand-off, it was not clear if the reference to the frontline troops and agreement to avoid any further unilateral change was part of the disengagement process. The joint press release of September 22 did not explicitly mention the plan for total disengagement of troops or reversal to status quo ante.
During the weekly briefing on Thursday (September 24), MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava underlined senior commanders had met after a gap of 50 days and that the disengagement of troops was a complex process.
“Even as two sides work towards complete disengagement in all friction areas, it is at the same time also necessary to ensure stability on the ground. The latest senior commander’s meeting should be seen in all this overall context,” said Srivastava.
He added that sixth meeting gave the senior military commanders “an opportunity to have candid and in-depth exchanges of views on stabilising the situation along the LAC”.
India also indicated that the “way ahead’ would be to refrain from attempts to “unilaterally change the status quo, while the two sides continue their discussions to achieve complete disengagement in all friction areas and to ensure full restoration of peace and tranquility in the border areas”.
As mentioned in the press release, both sides have agreed to the next meeting of the senior commanders “at the earliest”. “In parallel, the next meeting of the WMCC (Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs) is also likely to take place soon,” added Srivastava.
India and China have been involved in a terse stand-off since May, when Chinese troops were first detected in Galwan Valley, effectively restricting the traditional patrolling patterns of Indian troops. There were multiple stand-offs in that region, which peaked in a violent face-off at Galwan on June 15 that led to the death of 20 Indian soldiers.
While both sides have continued to talk to each other on various levels, the two armies still continue to be facing each other as they jostled to re-adjust their positions. Earlier this month, shots were fired for the first time at the LAC in over four decades.