A Border Roads Organisation (BRO) worker drives a steamroller while repairing a road surface with tarmac on a section of the Leh Manali highway in Ladakh region | Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg
File photo of road repair work on a section of the Leh-Manali highway in Ladakh region (representational image) | Bloomberg
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New Delhi: India Tuesday accused China of “departing” from the consensus they had reached to resolve their border stand-off in Ladakh and seeking to unilaterally change the status quo along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), resulting in violence that killed at least 20 Indian soldiers.

The Narendra Modi government also said the “violent face-off” that happened late Monday evening and continued until the night could have been avoided if the agreement that was reached at the “higher level been scrupulously followed by the Chinese side”. 

“Senior commanders had a productive meeting on 6 June and agreed on a process for such de-escalation. Subsequently, ground commanders had a series of meetings to implement the consensus reached at a higher level. While it was our expectation that this would unfold smoothly, the Chinese side departed from the consensus to respect the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Galwan Valley,” said Anurag Srivastava, spokesperson, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in a statement.

Srivastava added both sides have been discussing through military and diplomatic channels the de-escalation of the situation in the border area in eastern Ladakh, which began escalating since 5 May.

He also said Indian activities have always been “within the Indian side of the LAC” and “we expect the same of the Chinese side”.

“We remain firmly convinced of the need for the maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas and the resolution of differences through dialogue. At the same time, we are also strongly committed to ensuring India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he added.


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Both sides blame each other of crossing LAC

According to top-level sources, after the military commanders’ meeting on 6 June, there was agreement at the level of the top bosses, but “a number of misunderstandings” cropped up while implementing it as the Chinese side was “not ready to leave the valley”.

On 6 June, talks were held between the military commanders of India and China in the Chushul-Moldo region. The meeting was convened between Lt General Harinder Singh, commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps, who led the Indian delegation, and South Xinjiang Military District Commander Major General Liu Lin, who represented the Chinese side.

Sources, however, added diplomatic talks will now be “escalated” as both New Delhi as well Beijing are not keen on a “confrontation”.

Meanwhile, China lodged a protest with India’s Ambassador to Beijing Vikram Misri, and the face-off was discussed between him and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui.

“This is not just any stand-off. This is unprecedented. I have been saying accidents will happen and, hence, we need to be aware. This kind of aggression is unusual. We should not downplay the ground realities. The situation is not under our control because we have lost lives. I hope the matter is escalated at diplomatic levels and the Special Representatives (SR) should speak,” said Ashok Kantha, former Indian ambassador to Beijing and former secretary (East) at the MEA.

The 22nd edition of the SR-level dialogue, which was the last edition of the talks, happened in New Delhi last December between National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Wang Yi, State Councillor and Minister of Foreign Affairs of China, both of who are designated SRs for India and China, respectively. 


Also Read: After clash with India, PLA says China always had sovereignty over Galwan Valley region


‘New Delhi and Beijing are open to talks’

According to experts, what has happened Monday night is unprecedented as there have been no lives lost along the LAC since 1975.

“Without knowledge of the actual sequence of events in yesterday’s sad developments, it seems to me that, unlike during Doklam, the official Chinese reactions seem measured and sober. The way both sides are talking, it appears that neither side wants an escalation,” P.S. Raghavan, chairman, National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), told ThePrint.

Raghavan, a former diplomat also said, Doklam was a stand-off, but this was a skirmish, resulting in loss of lives, which “makes it more sensitive”. 

“We should be very careful not to jump to conclusions or validate rumours, which may complicate the official negotiations,” he said.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said: “Indian troops on Monday seriously violated the consensus of the two sides by illegally crossing the border twice and carrying out provocative attacks on Chinese soldiers, resulting in serious physical clashes.”

“China and Indian side agreed to resolve the bilateral issues through dialogue to ease the border situation and maintain peace and tranquility in border areas,” he added.

‘China wants to negotiate from a position of strength’

Despite the Monday incident, the government is hoping that such an incident will now be avoided by both sides and the 6 June understanding will be implemented to the satisfaction of both sides, sources said even as reports of more casualties started coming to light.

“China wouldn’t want to disengage easily since it suits them to occupy the areas. The point is whether their position changes the status quo to an altered one. That would be worrisome, if true. I feel, ultimately, China wants to negotiate from a position of strength. The current set of inputs don’t quite add up for me — from a military point of view. I believe there are more casualties,” said Probal Dasgupta, an Army veteran, who recently published his first book, ‘Watershed-1967: India’s Forgotten Victory Over China’

In order to douse the fire, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar apprised Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Galwan deaths. He also held an emergency meeting with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat and the three service chiefs.


Also Read: China believes India wants Aksai Chin back. PLA has likely secured 40-60 sq km in Ladakh


 

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