New Delhi: India and China have agreed to handle the tense situation in Ladakh in a “responsible manner” and implement the “disengagement understanding” of 6 June. The decision was taken on a telephone call between India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.
New Delhi and Beijing also decided Wednesday that neither side will take any steps that lead to an escalation, and to ensure that peace and tranquillity is maintained at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). But India has also said that the incident will have “serious impact” on the relationship.
“At the conclusion of the discussion, it was agreed that the overall situation would be handled in a responsible manner, and both sides would implement the disengagement understanding of 6 June sincerely. Neither side would take any action to escalate matters and instead, ensure peace and tranquillity as per bilateral agreements and protocols,” the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.
During the phone call, Jaishankar protested in the “strongest terms” on the violent face-off that took place in the Galwan Valley in Eastern Ladakh on 15 June, stressing that during the senior military commanders’ meeting held on 6 June, both sides had agreed on “de-escalation and disengagement” along the LAC.
Jaishankar also reiterated that the ground commanders were “meeting regularly” throughout last week to implement the consensus reached.
Chinese side sought to build a ‘structure’
According to the MEA, while progress was being made in the disengagement of troops, the Chinese side sought to build a “structure” in the Galwan Valley on the Indian side, and that was main reason why the face-off started on the night of 15 June.
“While this became a source of dispute, the Chinese side took pre-meditated and planned action that was directly responsible for the resulting violence and casualties. It reflected an intent to change the facts on ground in violation of all our agreements to not change the status quo,” the statement read.
The ministry had said Tuesday while India had expected the June 6 agreement to “unfold smoothly”, the Chinese side “departed from the consensus” that was reached to “respect the Line of Actual Control in the Galwan Valley”.
‘Serious impact’ on bilateral ties
India said Monday’s incident, which claimed the lives of 20 Indian soldiers, will have a “serious impact” on the bilateral relationship. This was the first time since 1975 when Indian soldiers had lost their lives in a clash with Chinese troops.
Jaishankar also told Wang that “need of the hour was for the Chinese side to reassess its actions and take corrective steps” and that both sides should “scrupulously and sincerely implement the understanding” that was reached on 6 June.
New Delhi has also told Beijing that both countries’ troops should abide by the bilateral agreements and protocols.
“They should strictly respect and observe the Line of Actual Control and should not take any unilateral action to alter it,” the MEA said.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was quoted by English daily Global Times as saying that Beijing has urged India to “investigate” the incident and “punish those responsible” while asking the troops to be prevent any “provocative actions”.
“India must make sure similar incidents as that on Monday do not happen again. India must also not miscalculate the current situation, and not underestimate China’s determination to safeguard its sovereignty and territory,” Wang was quoted as saying.
‘Indian side must not misjudge current situation’
The Chinese foreign ministry, meanwhile, stated that Indian troops “openly broke” the agreement reached on 6 June and made “deliberate provocations and even violently attacked the Chinese soldiers who went for negotiations”, as de-escalation was taking place on 15 June.
“The adventurism of the Indian army seriously violated agreements on border issues between the two countries and severely violated basic norms governing international relations,” the ministry said. “The Indian side must not misjudge the current situation and must not underestimate China’s firm determination to safeguard our territorial sovereignty.”
Referring to the phone-call with Jaishankar, minister Wang Yi said: “Mutual respect and support is a sure way and meets the long-term interests of both countries; suspicion and friction is a wrong path and goes against the fundamental aspiration of the two peoples.
“Both sides should act on the important consensus reached by the two state leaders, strengthen communication and coordination to properly address the border situation through existing channels, including the China-India Special Representatives’ Meeting and border personnel meeting mechanism, so as to jointly preserve peace and tranquillity in the border area,” he added.
PM Modi’s reaction
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about the Galwan incident Wednesday, saying India is keen on maintaining peace but capable of giving a “befitting reply if provoked”.
Modi said while India lost its soldiers, they were “martyred” while giving a proper reply to the Chinese troops.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also spoke on the issue Wednesday, stating that what happened in the Galwan Valley was “disturbing and painful”.
The European Union has urged a deescalation of the India-China tensions.
“In light of recent worrying developments along the Line of Actual Control between India and China, we encourage both sides to show restraint and to engage in military de-escalation, as well as to continue the dialogue,” said Virginie Battu-Henriksson, EU’s spokesperson for foreign affairs and security policy.
“This is crucial for building trust and reaching a peaceful solution which is essential to preserving peace and stability in the region,” the EU said.
The US State Department, meanwhile, said via a spokesperson that it was “closely monitoring the situation between Indian and Chinese forces along the Line of Actual Control”.
“We note the Indian military has announced that 20 soldiers have died, and we offer our condolences to their families. Both India and China have expressed a desire to de-escalate, and we support a peaceful resolution of the current situation,” the spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for the British High Commission in India added: “We encourage India and China to engage in dialogue on issues relating to the border. Violence is in no one’s interest.”
Meanwhile, Russian Ambassador to India Nikolay Kudashev welcomed the conversation and agreement on de-escalation between the Indian and Chinese foreign ministers.
We welcome all steps aimed at de-escalation at the #LAC, including the conversation between the two FMs, and remain optimistic.
— Nikolay Kudashev (@NKudashev) June 17, 2020
(This report has been updated with fresh reactions from the Chinese foreign ministry, Wang Yi and the Russian ambassador to India)