India to prod China into talks

India will prod China to restart joint efforts to narrow differences over the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in order to avert recurrences of stand-offs till the two neighbours could resolve the complex boundary dispute.

India is also considering evolving China’s Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) to expand contacts between the troops guarding the LAC on both sides. Beijing has been pressing New Delhi to sign the agreement and speculation has been rife that the recent incursion by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and People’s Armed Police Force (PAPF) at Depsang Bulge in Ladakh was a ploy to step up pressure on India.

Though the LAC at present separates India and China in the absence of a mutually agreed boundary, differing perceptions of LAC are often blamed for its transgressions and consequent tension and stand-offs.

In the November 1996 Agreement on Confidence Building Measures in the border areas, India and China recognised the differences in perception over the LAC and sought to speed up exchange of maps for clarification and confirmation of its alignment.  Beijing, however, subsequently took it off the table in its engagements with New Delhi, ostensibly out of apprehensions that New Delhi might insist on turning the LAC into de jure boundary. 

But, in the wake of the recent “face-to-face situation” at Depsang Bulge, New Delhi is now keen to insist upon Beijing for resumption of the process to narrow differences over the LAC’s alignment and is set to underline its importance to avert recurrences of such stand-offs, till the negotiations by Special Representatives of the two countries lead to a final settlement of the boundary dispute.

Even as the stand-off at Depsang Bulge ended on Sunday, maintenance of peace along the LAC is likely to be the top agenda for discussions between India and China – both during External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid’s meeting with his counterpart Wang Yi later in Beijing this week and new Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to New Delhi. Beijing had a few months back gave New Delhi a draft text of the BDCA, ostensibly to set up a mechanism for more regular “friendly contacts” between the personnel guarding the LAC.

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