China makes no promise to India on restoring status quo

India, China agree on five points, but no word on PLA restoring LAC status quo

Jaishankar, Wang reach consensus, but end of stand-off depends on success of talks between senior military commanders

Indian soldiers near Line of Actual Control. Credit: PTI Photo

India and China have reached a five-point-consensus, but the communist country has not made any commitment on restoring the status quo ante along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi have agreed that the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of the communist country should quickly pull back troops, stay away from each other’s positions and defuse tensions along the LAC – the de facto boundary between the two nations in western sector. They, however, left it for the senior military commanders of the two sides to work out the details of the phased withdrawal of troops and to resolve the four-month-long stand-off in eastern Ladakh.

Lt Gen Harinder Singh of the Indian Army and Maj Gen Liu Lin of the Chinese PLA are likely to restart talks next week after a gap of more than a month.

What is noticeably missing in the five-point-consensus Jaishankar and Wang reached during the meeting in Moscow on Thursday is any commitment by the PLA for restoration of the status quo ante along the LAC, although New Delhi has been insisting on it ever since the stand-off started and maintaining that it is pre-requisite for bringing India-China ties back on track.  

A source in New Delhi, however, quoted Jaishankar telling Wang during the meeting that India would not countenance any attempt by China to change the status quo along the disputed boundary between the two nations unilaterally.

Lt Gen Singh and Maj Gen Liu had five rounds of talks after the stand-off started in early May. They, however, did not have any meeting after the fifth on August 2, as the “disengagement process” they agreed upon was stalled as the PLA declined to completely withdraw troops from several face-off points along the LAC – like Depsang Y junction, Gogra Post and the northern bank of Pangong Tso (lake). The local commanders, however, continued to hold talks on situations on specific face-off points, albeit without much headway. 

Jaishankar and Wang agreed that the current situation in India-China border areas was “not in the interest of either side” and hence the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA “should continue their dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain proper distance and ease tension”, according to a joint statement issued early Friday.

Though talks between the senior military commanders earlier failed to end the stand-off, a source in New Delhi said that the five-point consensus reached during the meeting between the External Affairs Minister and the Chinese Foreign Minister would now provide “political guidance” to the negotiation between Indian Army and the Chinese PLA. In view of the violent face-off in Galwan Valley on June 15 and escalation of tension on the southern bank of Pangong Tso over the past few days, both sides agreed that the immediate task was to ensure a comprehensive disengagement of troops in all the face-off points along the LAC to prevent any untoward incident.

The ministers agreed that both sides “should take guidance from the series of consensus” reached between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Chinese President Xi Jinping “on developing India-China relations, including not allowing differences to become disputes”.

They agreed that both sides should abide by all the existing agreements and protocol to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas and the Special Representatives would continue to hold boundary negotiations. The diplomats will also continue holding talks under the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination to resolve flashpoints. They also agreed to restart discussion on new Confidence Building Measures in the border areas after resolving the current stand-off.