Disengage and Talk

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India and China have discussed modalities for disengagement along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh to be “taken forward by both the sides”. The statement that was attributed to sources followed after over 10-hour meeting between the Corps Commanders Lt General Harinder Singh and South Xinjiang Military District Commander Major General Liu Lin at Moldo on the Chinese side of the border. Talks are said to have been held in a positive and cordial atmosphere. This was later confirmed by the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian who said that the two sides had agreed to take steps to ease tension at the border area.

Earlier the two Corps commanders had met on June 6 and l decided that lower-level commanders will discuss the ground details for disengagement. There were also talks at the level of Colonels, Brigadiers and Major Generals. Army Chief General MM Naravane had even stated that some disengagement had begun in Galwan Valley. But all this apparent understanding unraveled on June 15 when violent clashes between the troops from both sides left 20 Indian troops dead. This brought the two countries to the brink of war.

Thousands of Indian and Chinese troops have faced each other after the later came over to the Indian perception of Line of Actual Control at Galwan Valley, Pangong Tso and Hot Springs. Some reports have claimed China is in possession of 60 square kilometres of the Indian side of the LAC. New Delhi has however refused to confirm these reports. But in his meeting with opposition leaders on June 19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi surprised everyone by stating there had been no intrusions by China in Ladakh. The statement was perceived to have misrepresented the weeks-long border stand-off between the two countries and given China a clean chit. Though Prime Minister’s Office came out with clarifications later, that only added to the confusion. As things stand, the government is yet to publicly accept that China has crossed into Indian side of LAC. Be that as it may, the agreement to disengage is a good news. It will lead to de-escalation of a fraught situation. A military confrontation between the two sides would be a disaster for both. More so, at a time when the two countries and the world are fighting a virulent pandemic that has led to death of close to five lakh people across the world and brought the world economy to a halt. This has made the world inter-dependent more than ever. Under these circumstances India and China need each other and they will greatly benefit from mutual cooperation. That said, one more border confrontation has once again underlined the need for a sustained dialogue to sort out the long pending border issue. Leaving the borders unsettled is a ticking time bomb which can blow up anytime.

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