INDIA and China have once again agreed to resolve their border stand-off in Ladakh as prolonging the existing situation “was not in the interest of either side.” A statement issued on Wednesday by the government following a meeting between Foreign Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi said that the conflict along the LAC in Ladakh between the two countries “was visibly impacting the relationship in a negative manner.”
The foreign ministers met in Tajikistan on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, an eight-nation regional grouping that primarily focuses on security and defence issues. Later, in a tweet, Jaishankar said he discussed “outstanding issues” with Wang and highlighted that “unilateral change of status quo is not acceptable.”
Jaishankar has also called for “full restoration and maintenance of peace and tranquillity in border areas” as essential for development of Indian and Chinese ties. The foreign ministers have now agreed on “convening an early meeting of the Senior Military Commanders.”
This is a welcome development after an over yearlong stand-off that brought the armies of the two countries eyeball to eyeball. At times it appeared that the neighbours were on the verge of going to war. One such occasion was on June 15 last year when twenty Indian soldiers lost their lives in a bloody skirmish. There were other uneasy times as well when the two countries brought tanks to the border. But only the restraint and the dialogue could resolve the impasse. It was this dialogue that led to disengagement along Pangong Tso lake.
There are, however, three other major friction points which would need to be sorted out now. There has so far been no progress in the dialogue over the restoration of status quo ante in these areas. But there is hope that like Pangong Tso, the two countries would find a diplomatic solution to all the friction points along the Line of Actual Control, sooner than later.
The problem in the negotiations so far has been that China has been loathe to go back to the status quo ante and has asked for mutual withdrawal. The incursions in the first place have been staged by China and the communist giant is not ready to vacate it unless India also withdraws from a portion of the border on its side of the LAC. But New Delhi can hardly afford to do it, not least because it considers the area its own. Doing so will be politically costly for the BJP government at the centre which is already facing severe flak for vacating Kailash ranges as part of its Pangong Tso agreement. But through sustained negotiations they certainly can find a way out. For a peaceful neighborhood it’s important that India and China reach a modus-vivendi
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