New Delhi: India and China Thursday held diplomatic-level talks under the framework of the Working Mechanism for Consultation & Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC), but no resolution could be found on the ongoing standoff at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh.
This was the first WMCC dialogue since China rolled out its controversial new Land Border Law, which deals with the country’s patrolling activities on its 22,100-km land border, and is expected to pose a massive challenge for India.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), it was decided at the WMCC that talks will continue and both sides will soon also hold a dialogue at the level of military commanders.
The MEA also said both sides had “candid and in-depth” discussions over outstanding issues.
While India and China carried out disengagement at Pangong Tso in February and Gogra Post in August, two other friction sites in Ladakh — Hot Springs and Depsang Plains — continue to remain a concern for India.
“The two sides recalled the agreement between External Affairs Minister and the Foreign Minister of China during their meeting in September in Dushanbe that military and diplomatic officials of the two sides should continue their discussions to resolve the remaining issues along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh,” the MEA said in a statement after the WMCC talks, which went on for about three hours.
India was represented at the talks by Naveen Srivastava, Additional Secretary (East Asia) in the MEA, while China was represented by Hong Liang, Director General of the Boundary & Oceanic Department of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The last WMCC was held on 25 June.
At the Dushanbe meeting in September 2021, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi discussed that India and China had to “deal with each other on merits” and establish a relationship based on mutual respect, and that the bilateral relationship is currently at its lowest ebb.
They had met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in the capital of Tajikistan. Before that, the foreign ministers also met in July 2021, where Jaishankar told Wang that any unilateral change in status quo in the India-China border areas is “not acceptable”.
The WMCC is one of the India-China bilateral frameworks to resolve border tensions. The meeting Thursday was the 9th round since the standoff in eastern Ladakh began in April-May 2020.
At the meeting, the MEA said, both sides reviewed the developments since the last meeting of the senior commanders of both sides on 10 October.
“In this regard, they agreed on the need to find an early resolution to the remaining issues along the LAC in eastern Ladakh while fully abiding by bilateral agreements and protocols so as to restore peace and tranquility,” the MEA added.
“The two sides also agreed that both sides should in the interim also continue to ensure a stable ground situation and avoid any untoward incident.”
The MEA also said it was agreed that both sides will hold the next senior commanders’ meeting — the 14th round since the standoff began — at an early date “to achieve the objective of complete disengagement from all the friction points along the LAC in the western sector in accordance with the existing bilateral agreements and protocols”.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)