New Delhi: The disengagement and de-escalation at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh, which has been witnessing a stand-off for the past nearly two years, was the primary focus of India during talks with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi Friday.
Sources in the defence and security establishment told ThePrint that while Wang was pitching for closer Sino-India ties, especially in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, while also seeking Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s participation in the proposed BRICS summit to be hosted by China later this year, India stuck to its own demands — easing of tensions at the LAC.
NSA Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar made it clear to Wang that for normalisation of relationship, peace and tranquility has to prevail at the LAC, said the sources.
However, there has been no word yet from the Chinese on the LAC situation.
Talking about Wang’s meeting with Doval, China’s state-run news agency, Xinhua, reported that the minister called for long term vision.
“China and India should stick to their own development paths and join hands to safeguard peace and stability both in the region and in the world,” the report said without mentioning anything about the LAC situation.
It said Wang has proposed a three-point approach to achieving that end. “First, both sides should view bilateral relations with a long-term vision. Second, they should see each other’s development with a win-win mentality. Third, both countries should take part in the multilateral process with a cooperative posture.”
Meanwhile, sources said during the meet, Wang invited NSA Doval to visit China for carrying forward the Special Representatives talks on border issues, but Doval plainly said that this could only happen after “immediate issues are resolved successfully”.
Sources explained that the immediate issue that Doval was talking about was disengagement and eventual de-escalation at the LAC.
According to the sources, of the five friction points that developed since May 2020 — Galwan Valley, Pangong Tso, Kailash range, Gogra, Hot Springs (Patrol Point 15) — four have seen disengagement.
The sources pointed out that only PP 15 is still left, and even though it can be easily achieved — since only a small fraction of troops are in face-off — China has been hesitant, despite having agreed to pull back in July 2020, soon after the Galwan clash.
De-escalation, not just troops pull back
Sources said that the immediate issue that Doval was focussed on included de-escalation too, rather than just pull back of troops from PP 15. This is because while soldiers are no longer in a face-off at earlier dispute points, large scale deployment continues on either side.
At all locations, a buffer zone has been created at the disputed sites to ensure that troops remain away from each other. However, this also meant that while troops have pulled back, they remain concentrated just two-three kilometres away from the friction point.
Sources said that the aim is that once the disengagement takes place at PP 15, the two sides will carry out gradual de-escalation which would mean that over 50,000 additional troops pulled in since the stand-off began, will go back to pre-April 2020 locations along with their equipment.
Only once the situation has stabilised to this effect would it be considered that we have reached a normal level, and further talks over pending issues can be discussed in detail, sources said.
As reported by ThePrint earlier, tensions between the two countries at Depsang Plains is not being considered as part of the “immediate issue”, because that tension predates the current friction that began in 2020.
Sources said the Depsang Plains issue has been under discussion at both military and diplomatic level for long and is of extreme importance. The Chinese have been blocking Indian patrols, which go by foot beyond the feature called the Bottleneck area or Y Junction, in Depsang.
However, it is not a part of what India is seeking when its says going back to April 2020 status.