New Delhi: India believes it is imperative to have a new set of confidence-building measures (CBMs) as the Chinese have not adhered to and implemented the existing ones, which were laid out in five border pacts signed between 1993 and 2012.
As tensions continue to soar at the Ladakh sector of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the decision to “conclude the new Confidence Building Measures to maintain and enhance peace and tranquillity in the border areas” was jointly taken at last week’s meeting between External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Any new CBM, however, will have to be put in place as an “addition” to what is already enumerated in the five existing border agreements, sources in Indian diplomatic community told ThePrint.
According to the sources, during the meeting between both the foreign ministers in Moscow, Jaishankar had highlighted to Wang on how Beijing violated the 1993 and 1996 border agreements by amassing its troops with heavy equipment along the LAC.
The presence of such a large concentration of troops “was not in accordance with the 1993 and 1996 Agreements and created flashpoints along the LAC” and that the Chinese side failed to give a “credible explanation for this deployment”, sources said.
Some of the key agreements are — in a face-off situation neither side shall use force or threaten to use force against the other; both sides shall treat each other with courtesy and refrain from any provocative actions; neither side shall put up marks or signs on the spots and also if the border personnel of the two sides come to a face-to-face situation due to differences on the alignment of the Line of Actual Control or any other reason, they shall exercise self-restraint and take all necessary steps to avoid an escalation of the situation.
“In the present standoff, which has witnessed bloodshed for the first time since 1975, we have seen China violating each of these CBMs,” said a source, who did not wish to be identified. “For them, the existing CBMs hold no value. So these have to be asserted and reaffirmed.”
New CBMs should clarify the understanding of LAC, say experts
The five border pacts existing between the two countries at present are:
- 1993 Agreement on Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas,
- 1996 Agreement on Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field along the LAC,
- 2005 Protocol on Modalities for the Implementation of the Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field along the LAC,
- 2012 Agreement on the Establishment of a Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs,
- 2013 Border Defence Cooperation Agreement.
In the 1996 agreement, signed in New Delhi on 29 November of that year, India and China had vowed to arrive at a “common understanding of the alignment of the Line of Actual Control in the India-China border areas”. The two sides also agreed to speed up the process of clarification and confirmation of the LAC.
“This has remained an unfinished task and that has to be completed,” the source said.
Experts, however, say that the new CBMs, which will be discussed only after the present standoff has been mitigated, should not limit India’s activities, especially the infrastructure building exercise along the LAC.
“Although there is an elaborate architecture of CBMs that have been out in place, there has been a failure in its implementation by the Chinese side,” said Ashok K. Kantha, director, Institute of Chinese Studies. “The five border pacts can always be revisited and fine-tuned, there is enough room for that but it should not limit our activities that we carry out at the LAC.”
Kantha, a former Indian Ambassador to China and has worked on the border pacts, added, “China has made such attempts of limiting our activities before also… They have an advantage over infrastructure building along the LAC. We are also fast catching up but we still have a lot of work to do.”
He further said that while negotiating the pacts, India should ensure that there is “clarification and confirmation” of the LAC and that both sides should arrive at a “common understanding” on this issue and that patrolling of troops should be freely allowed.
According to Gautam Bambawale, former Indian envoy to Beijing who has also worked on the border pacts, the most important CBMs that the Chinese have broken this time is that of bringing in heavy troops near the LAC.
“First, just moving tens of thousands of troops to the forward areas is a violation. Second, disturbing the status quo ante is a violation. Third, using weapons is a violation,” he said. “China has violated the bilateral agreements for maintaining peace and tranquility in the border areas.”
“Both India and China have put in place a number of agreements since, thereby creating an architecture of CBMs painstakingly over the years,” Bambawale added. The understanding always was, since both governments have bilaterally discussed it and signed it, these agreements will be adhered to by both the sides … Any new CBMs would be useful only if China abides by them and does not violate them at will. This lack of trust is affecting the entire India-China relationship.”
Meanwhile, the Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong Monday stated that as a future development to the bilateral relationship, concluding the work on new CBMs is the “way ahead” and the “solution is very clear.”
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