New Delhi: Union External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi discussed the tensions in Ladakh Thursday as they held their first face-to-face meeting since the ongoing row at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) erupted in May.
The two met in Moscow on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) foreign ministers’ meeting. The interaction lasted nearly three hours.
While an official statement is awaited, government sources said India asserted the need to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas.
Sources said Jaishankar reiterated India’s demand for the restoration of status quo ante, that is, a return to the positions held in April, before Chinese incursions in eastern Ladakh. He is also believed to have told Wang that the Indian Army never tried to transgress the LAC, refuting a frequent Chinese allegation.
The idea behind the meeting, the sources said, was to ensure that both sides continue to engage in talks and, eventually, bring the temperatures down at border, where tensions remain high in a few areas such as Chushul, Depsang and Pangong Tso, among others around the Kailash range.
Both sides seemed to have agreed to hold further discussions both at the military as well as diplomatic levels, sources added.
Several rounds of talks
Over the past four months, India and China have engaged at the military and diplomatic levels to ease the border situation in Ladakh, but the situation remains tense. Government sources had told ThePrint earlier Thursday that, in some areas at Pangong Tso, Indian and Chinese forces are less than 200 metres away.
Hours before Jaishankar and Wang’s meeting began Thursday, brigade commanders as well as commanding officers on the two sides held meetings to discuss tensions at Pangong Tso.
Since tensions erupted in May, the ministers have spoken twice, with the second conversation taking place immediately after the Galwan Valley clash on 15 June in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
Their interaction Thursday was preceded by a luncheon meeting among foreign ministers of the Russia-India-China (RIC) grouping.
The Jaishankar-Wang meeting comes days after Beijing accused the Indian Army of entering Chinese territory at Pangong Tso and firing warning shots at its troops Monday, the eve of Jaishankar’s departure for Moscow. India has denied the allegations and claimed it was China that fired the shots when challenged by Indian soldiers as they attempted to close in with one of India’s forward positions along the LAC.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of External Affairs confirmed Thursday that there will be a corps commander-level meeting between India and China soon.
Foreign Secretary Harsh V. Shringla had said last Friday that the present stand-off is as serious as the situation in 1962, when India and China fought their first and only war so far. It cannot be business as usual with Beijing unless the situation is resolved, he said.
Last week, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe in Moscow, where both sides blamed each other for the ongoing tensions.