Dialogue, disengagement, distance: India and Chinese foreign ministers reach late-night agreement to lower tensions
After a two-and-a-half hour-long meeting that went into the night in Moscow, Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said they have agreed on a five-point course of action to de-escalate the four-month-long standoff between their troops at the Line of Actual Control in the disputed region of the Ladakh Himalayas
After a two-and-a-half hour-long meeting that went into the night in Moscow, Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said they have agreed on a five-point course of action to de-escalate the four-month-long standoff between their troops at the Line of Actual Control in the disputed region of the Ladakh Himalayas.
“The two Foreign Ministers agreed that the current situation in the border areas is not in the interest of either side. They agreed therefore that the border troops of both sides should continue their dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain proper distance and ease tensions,” a joint press statement issued after the meeting said.
The two countries, at the meet, agreed on a five-point plan to resolve the prolonged border face-off in eastern Ladakh that included abiding by all existing agreements and protocol on management of the frontier, maintaining peace and tranquility and avoiding any action that could escalate matters.
India's Ministry of External Affairs(MEA) issued a joint press statement early on Friday featuring five points which were agreed by both sides at the "frank and constructive" discussions by the two ministers.
Both sides "should take guidance from the series of consensus of the leaders on developing India-China relations, including not allowing differences to become disputes," it further stressed.
India had highlighted its "strong concern at the massing of Chinese troops with equipment along the Line of Actual Control (LAC)", the de facto border between the two countries, at the meeting in Moscow on Thursday evening, sources have said. "The provocative behavior of Chinese frontline troops at numerous incidents of friction along the LAC also showed disregard for bilateral agreements and protocols," Beijing was told.
China, after the meeting, said "it is important to move back all personnel and equipment that have trespassed".
Indian troops "scrupulously followed all agreements and protocols," the Foreign Ministry told Beijing at the meeting, adding: "The presence of such large concentration of (Chinese) troops was not in accordance with the 1993 and 1996 agreements and created flash points along the LAC. The Chinese side has not provided a credible explanation for this deployment."
The immediate task, "to prevent any untoward incident in the future", is "to ensure a comprehensive disengagement of troops in all the friction areas," India told China, sources said, as New Delhi stressed that an "urgent resolution of the current situation was in the interest of both nations".
In an official statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Beijing "is willing to support enhanced dialogue between the frontier troops on both sides to resolve specific issues". "Wang outlined China's stern position on the situation in border areas, emphasising that the imperative is to immediately stop provocation such as firing and other dangerous situations that violate the commitments made by the two sides," reads the statement.
"It is also important to move back all personnel and equipment that have trespassed. The frontier troops must quickly disengage so that situation may de-escalate," the statement further said.
"What China and India need right now is cooperation and not confrontation, and mutual trust, not suspicion. When the situation gets difficult, it is all the more important to ensure the stability of the overall relationship and preserve mutual trust, " the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.
India-China relations have developed a largely positive trajectory since the "resumption of Ambassadorial level relations in 1976 and holding of boundary talks since 1981," New Delhi underlined at the meeting, officials said.
While India acknowledged that "a solution to the boundary question required time and effort", it also clarified the "maintenance of peace and tranquility on the border areas was essential to the forward development of ties". "The recent incidents in eastern Ladakh, however, inevitably impacted the development of the bilateral relationship," Beijing was told.
The Indian Army and the Chinese People's Liberation Army(PLA) have been locked in a standoff along the LAC in eastern Ladakh since early May with deaths of 20 Indian soldiers and almost an equal number on the Chinese side.