IN the latest agreement, India and China have agreed not to send troops to the frontline in Ladakh. This was agreed at a meeting of the Indian and Chinese senior military commanders that met on Monday to discuss stabilizing tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Both sides have agreed to reinforce communication on the ground to remove the possibility of a misunderstanding or action that may further complicate the situation. They also agreed that there shall be no unilateral action that would alter the situation on the ground. The two sides are meeting again to build upon the current understanding.
In another positive development, Chinese premier Xi Jinping has said that China doesn’t want either hot or cold war against any country. Addressing the United Nations General Assembly, Jinping said that China will never seek hegemony or pursue expansionist policies.
However, on ground in Ladakh, the situation remains tense. Indian and Chinese armies remain in an eye-ball to eye-ball position along the LAC. Despite several meetings between the armed forces of the two countries and later on between defence and foreign ministers of the two countries that have led to agreements to disengage and de-escalate the situation, little has altered on the ground. At times, actions by the Chinese side have pushed the situation to the brink. On June 15, twenty Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed in a skirmish in Galwan Valley. And recently, there was also a shooting incident between the two armies, the first of its kind in decades.
India wants China to go back to status quo ante as it existed in April but Beijing is in no mood to do so. On the contrary, the People’s Liberation Army has enhanced its military profile on the border by deploying thousands of its soldiers and equipment. In recent years China has reportedly more than doubled its total number of air bases, air defence positions and heliports near the Indian border.
This has now become a high stakes war of nerves between the two countries. More so, for India that can hardly afford to be distracted at a time when the number of the Covid-19 positive cases has crossed 56 lakh. What is more, the number of the daily cases has shown an exponential rise at times reaching close to one lakh. Besides, the depleting economy hit hard by the badly implemented nationwide lockdown hardly affords the government any space for hostilities. China, on the other hand, has successfully tackled the pandemic, despite being the country of origin of the deadly contagion.
A pragmatic way out to resolve the lingering stand-off is through negotiations, even if it takes time. With winter approaching it will be in the interest of both the countries to reach an understanding that also holds on the ground. But this can only happen if Beijing approaches the dialogue seriously.
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