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Need to renegotiate confidence building measures, says ex Northern Command chief on China standoff

In panel discussion on ‘2 years of crisis in Eastern Ladakh’, Lt Gen (retired) Deependra Singh Hooda also said India & China need to ‘get serious’ about identifying LAC & where it lies today.

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New Delhi: Two years after tensions broke out between the Indian Army and China’s People Liberation Army in Eastern Ladakh and along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in 2020, there remains a need to renegotiate existing confidence-building measures (CBMs) in these areas, Lieutenant General (retired) Deependra Singh Hooda, former chief of the Northern Command, said Wednesday.

“We need to talk about patrolling patterns and aspects of infrastructural development (in the region). Maybe it is time to sit down, have another look at this whole area of CBM, see which aspects have been creating tensions for the past five-six years and look at trying to resolve these issues,” Hooda said.

Confidence building measures are defined by the United Nations as “planned procedures” taking place between countries in order to “prevent hostilities, to avert escalation, to reduce military tension, and to build mutual trust”.

Hooda’s statement came at a panel discussion —  2 Years of Crisis in Eastern Ladakh: Way Ahead — organised by the Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS) in Delhi.

“Both sides must get serious about the identification of the LAC and where it lies today. It is going to be a difficult, long, torturous process, but it can help ease the situation,” he added.

The other panelists at Wednesday’s discussion included former Indian ambassador to China Gautam Bambawale, Centre for Policy Research senior fellow Sushant Singh, and China Forum expert, Senior Colonel Zhou Bo, who previously served in the Chinese military.

While Bambawale focused on the historical importance of then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to China in 1988 in defining relations between the two countries for the next three decades, Singh spoke of the current situation and near future of India-China relations, and Bo touched upon the position of the border issue in China’s overall foreign policy.

Also read: Keep India-China ties on ‘right track’, says Chinese envoy, pushes for ‘win-win mentality’

Hooda not first to talk of confidence building measures

Lt Gen Hooda is not the first to have flagged the issue of CBMs and whether they are outdated, as reported by ThePrint in 2020. 

In September 2020, Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had met in Moscow and agreed on the need to “expedite work to conclude new confidence building measures to maintain and enhance peace and tranquility in the border areas”.

As the existing CBMS formed part of five border pacts that India and China had signed between 1993 and 2013, sources in India’s diplomatic community had told ThePrint then that Jaishankar had highlighted to Wang how Beijing had violated the 1993 and 1996 border agreements, by amassing its troops and heavy equipment along the LAC.

In April 2021, China’s envoy to India, Sun Weidong, reiterated the need to “strengthen” these CBMs to ensure that incidents like the standoff would not be repeated.

Providing insights on the work done by the Army as part of these CBMs prior to the May 2020 standoff, Lt Gen Hooda said, “It was like a soft management of (the border areas), incursions were taking place, but no violence. In 2015, we had over 50 border meetings with the Chinese in Eastern Ladakh, some of these meetings were to discuss incursions, others to discuss (management) of local festivals. All that has unfortunately changed,” he said.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: Top military commanders take stock of LAC situation, war games likely to fine tune strategies


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