Calming The LAC

IN a sign that the lingering stand-off between India and China may be ending soon, the two countries on Thursday began disengaging from the Gogra-Hotsprings border area in Ladakh after reaching a consensus in the 16th round of India-China Corps Commander-level meeting. According to the union government, the disengagement is taking place in a “coordinated and planned” manner and is meant to maintain peace at the frontier.  The move comes ahead of a meeting in Uzbekistan scheduled next week which is expected to be attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The two countries have been engaged in a bitter standoff ever since the Chinese army staged incursions across the Line of actual Control in multiple areas in April-May 2020. The situation came to a head when 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives during a scuffle along the border. Ever since multiple Corps Commander-level talks and a few meetings between the foreign  ministers of the two nations yielded little result.

Last year, in a first breakthrough in talks,  India and China pulled back their troops from the south bank of Pangong lake area in eastern Ladakh following their agreement for “synchronised and organised disengagement”. But subsequently, there was no progress on the other three points of friction – Galwan Valley, Hot Springs, and Gogra. Up until now they have proved difficult to sort out.  But there is hope that like  the three frictions points so far,  the two countries will find a diplomatic solution to all the stand-off at Galwan Valley, 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 was  not ready to vacate it unless India also withdraws from a portion of the border on its side of the LAC.  But New Delhi could hardly afford to do it, not least because it considers the area its own. Doing so would have been politically costly for the BJP government at the centre which was already facing severe flak for vacating Kailash ranges as part of its Pangong Tso agreement. But through sustained negotiations they  have finally found an amicable way out. For a peaceful neighborhood it’s important that  India and China reach a modus-vivendi by resolving the issues dividing them.

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