Even as the senior diplomats of India and China on Friday had a video-conference after a six-week-long hiatus in engagement between the two nations, they could not make any headway to resolve the military stand-off along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh.
They, however, agreed that the senior commanders of the Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) would hold the ninth meeting again soon to end the impasse in the process of withdrawal of front-line troops from the LAC – the de facto boundary between the two nations in the western sector. The military commanders had held the eighth meeting on November 6.
“Both sides agreed to maintain close consultations at the diplomatic and military level,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), said in a statement issued in New Delhi. “They agreed that the next (9th) round of senior commanders meeting should be held at an early date so that both sides can work towards early and complete disengagement of troops along the LAC in accordance with the existing bilateral agreements and protocols, and fully restore peace and tranquillity.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the communist country’s government issued a separate statement in Beijing stating that the two sides had positively appraised the results of the eighth round of talks between the senior commanders of the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA and agreed to continue to maintain dialogue and consultation through diplomatic and military channels.
The video conference was the 20th round of talks under the framework of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC), which was established in 2012 as an institutional mechanism for consultation and coordination for management of flashpoints along the disputed boundary between the two neighbours.
Naveen Srivastava, who heads the East Asia division at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), led the delegation of the Government of India in the video conference. The delegation of the Chinese Government was led by Hong Liang, the Director General of the Department of Boundary and Oceanic Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Srivastava and Hong earlier had as many as five video conferences within the framework of WMCC on June 24, July 10, July 24, August 20 and September 30 to resolve the current military stand-off along the disputed boundary between the two nations in eastern Ladakh.
The MEA stated in New Delhi that the Indian and Chinese diplomats had reviewed the developments along the LAC and agreed that based on the guidance provided by senior leaders and the agreements reached between the two Foreign Ministers and Special Representatives, they would continue to work towards ensuring complete disengagement in all friction points along the LAC in the Western Sector at the earliest. The two sides noted that the seventh and eighth rounds of Senior Commanders meetings held on October 12 and November 6 respectively had in-depth discussions in this regard and that the discussions had also contributed to ensuring stability on the ground.
Though India and China had agreed upon a roadmap for a mutual withdrawal of front-line troops from the face-off scenes along the LAC in early July, the process had come to a halt within a fortnight, with the Chinese PLA declining to completely pull back soldiers from several “points of friction” along the LAC – like Depsang Y junction, Gogra Post and the northern bank of Pangong Tso.
The senior military commanders of the two sides had held the fifth round of talks on August 2, but they had failed to end the stalemate.
After External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had a meeting in Moscow on September 10, the military commanders of the two nations had again met on the LAC on September 21 – ending an almost six-week-long hiatus. They had agreed to stop further deployment of soldiers on the face-off points, but had not been able to reach an agreement to restart the stalled process of pulling back troops already deployed on the LAC.
The senior commanders of the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA had discussed during the seventh and eighth rounds of talks in October and November a plan for restarting the mutual disengagement of troops from the face-off scenes, beginning with the northern and southern banks of Pangong Tso.
The plan, however, could not be implemented yet as the Indian Army turned down the Chinese PLA’s proposal for creating a moratorium on patrolling between Finger 3 and Finger 8 on the northern bank of the lake.