Ahead of Quad Summit, China Rakes up Galwan; India Dismisses Charges

The Galwan Valley incident was caused by the Indian side's "illegal trespass", the Chinese foreign ministry said.

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New Delhi: Ahead of the first in-person Quad summit in Washington, the diplomatic rhetoric between China and India escalated with recriminations over the provocation for the Galwan valley encounter, which left at least 24 soldiers dead.

At the daily media briefing in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian answered a question about India’s new theatre commands and looking for a new border agreement by raking up the Galwan valley incident.

“Over the years, a series of treaties and agreements signed by China and India on maintaining peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) have played an important role in upholding stability along the China-India border. The Galwan Valley incident last year was caused by the Indian side’s illegal trespass of the LAC to encroach on Chinese territory, in violation of previously-signed treaties and agreements,” he said.

Zhao hoped that India would strictly abide by relevant treaties and agreements signed by the two countries and take concrete actions to safeguard peace and stability in the China-India border areas.

A month after India and China began a military stand-off in eastern Ladakh, Indian and Chinese soldiers had a violent encounter at Galwan valley on June 15. While 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives, it took China more than eight months to officially acknowledge that four Chinese had also died during the hand-to-hand combat in the Himalayan heights. These were the first casualties at the India-China border in over four decades.

India had accused China of crossing the LAC at Galwan valley, which had never been under dispute before the stand-off. Beijing had claimed that it was Indian soldiers who had “illegally trespassed” across the LAC.

Since then, India and China have disengaged their troops from two friction points at Pangong Tso Lake and Gogra post in February and August, respectively. However, there has been no progress on other stand-off points like Depsang plains.

While the stand-off continues, there had been no reiteration about claims and counter-claims over Galwan in recent months.

The Chinese spokesperson’s reference to the Galwan valley incident took place less than 24 hours before the leaders of the US, Japan, India and Australia gathered for the first in-person summit of the Quad summit in Washington. The tenor was also markedly different from the Chinese ambassador to India, Sun Weidong’s remarks to a track-2 meeting a day earlier.

India’s external affairs ministry was quick to dismiss China’s remarks and pointed the finger squarely at Beijing.

“We reject such statements. Our position with regard to developments last year along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh has been clear and consistent. It was the provocative behaviour and unilateral attempts of the Chinese side to alter status quo in contravention of all our bilateral agreements that resulted in serious disturbance of peace and tranquillity,” said MEA spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi.

Stating that Chinese behaviour has impacted bilateral relations, he pointed out that Indian external affairs minister S. Jaishankar had told his counterpart, Wang Yi in Tajikistan, that New Delhi expected to work towards early resolution of remaining issues at Ladakh and abide by bilateral agreements.

Earlier during the day, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had taunted the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not pushing out China from Indian territory. “Mr 56 is scared of China,” Gandhi tweeted, along with a 54-second video about news reports of Chinese incursions.

Meanwhile, China reiterated its description of the ‘Quad’ as a short-lived, closed clique at Friday’s briefing in the foreign ministry.

“China always believes that any regional cooperation mechanism should not target or harm the interests of a third party. A closed, exclusive clique targeting other countries runs counter to the trend of the times and the aspirations of regional countries. It will find no support and is doomed to fail,” said the Chinese spokesperson in answer to a question about the Quad summit.

He also was dismissive about Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga bringing up maritime disputes and economic coercion with China during the meeting with Modi on Thursday.

“‘Lying diplomacy’ and ‘smearing diplomacy’ are not constructive at all and must be put to a stop. China is firmly committed to safeguarding its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests. China is ready to continue to properly handle differences with countries concerned through consultation and negotiation,” said the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson.

He also added that it was the US, not China, that employed coercive economic practices against countries, like sanctions, for diplomatic reasons.