India-China Talks

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IN a positive development China on Tuesday admitted that the stand-off along the Line of Actual Control was “continuing to head in the direction of easing and cooling down”. It said “the border troops of both countries “have disengaged in most locations” following talks through “military and diplomatic channels”. Earlier, New Delhi had announced that India and China had China had agreed on “early and complete disengagement” along the LAC. Chinese statement came ahead of the fifth round of talks, likely to be held later this week, between Corps Commanders of the two armies.

China has made conciliatory noises over the past week. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin has expressed hope that India can meet China halfway, implement the consensus both sides have reached and safeguard peace and stability in the border region together.

Though the two countries have disengaged at Galwan Valley and Hot Springs, the People’s Liberation Army has so far been reluctant to withdraw from Pangong Tso and Gogra.  Pangong Tso has been a bitter bone of contention.  Here Indian and Chinese perception of the LAC differs markedly. While India sees the LAC at Finger 8, and up to where Indian troops used to patrol until March,  Chinese troops during their incursions in April occupied Finger 4 that falls on the north bank of the lake. Though subsequently,  the Chinese vacated the Finger 4 base area and retreated to Finger 5,  they continue to occupy positions on the ridgeline at Finger 4.

Now that China has shown willingness to resolve the border stand-off peacefully, it can be hoped it will restore the status quo ante at Pangong Tso and Gogra too. This would pave the way for a re-engagement between the two giant neighbours for a peaceful resolution of their lingering border issue. The two countries share 3488 kilometres of border, most of it running along the Himalayas.  Much of this border remains disputed and the efforts in the past to arrive at a mutually agreed delineation have come to nought. The differing perception of the border has thus become a recurrent source of crisis between the two countries. However, the ongoing stand-off along the LAC has been one of the most serious in years. On June 15, both countries came to lethal blows at Galwan Valley leading to loss of the lives of 20 Indian soldiers. China didn’t reveal how many of its soldiers died in the clash. However, the two countries owe it to themselves and their people to resolve the current crisis without further recourse to a violent confrontation that can have serious regional and geopolitical consequences. Here is hoping that the upcoming Corps Commanders meet is successful at reaching an acceptable settlement.

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