India - China: MEA Participates in Border Talks; No Immediate Signs of A Breakthrough
STORIES, ANALYSES, EXPERT VIEWS
In a first since the India, China border stand-off in 2020, Ministry of External Affairs Shilpak Ambule, Joint Secretary (East Asia) travelled to Beijing for the 26th meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation & Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC).
The Chinese delegation was led by Director General of the Boundary & Oceanic Affairs Department of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
This was the first in-person WMCC meeting since the 14th meeting held in July 2019.
During the continuing border stand-off that began in eastern Ladakh in May 2020, 11 WMCC meetings have taken place — but all through video-conferencing.
While no immediate breakthrough has been announced and both sides maintained their stated positions, the significance of the meeting lies in its in-person nature in China’s capital.
The Indian side insisted that disengagement of frontline troops alone will help restore normalcy in bilateral ties.
Besides reviewing the situation along the LAC in the western sector, the WMCC meeting “discussed proposals for disengagement in the remaining areas in an open and constructive manner”, according to a statement from the external affairs ministry. Such a disengagement “would help in restoration of peace and tranquillity along the LAC in Western Sector and create conditions for restoration of normalcy in bilateral relations”.
“To achieve this objective in accordance with the existing bilateral agreements and protocols, they agreed to hold the next (18th) round of the Senior Commanders meeting at an early date. The two sides agreed to continue discussions through military and diplomatic channels,” the statement added.
India and China withdrew frontline troops from the two banks of the Pangong Lake, Gogra and Hot Springs after more than two dozen rounds of diplomatic and military talks during the past three years. However, they have been unable to reach an understanding on friction points such as Depsang and Demchok.
Indian and Chinese positions
External affairs minister S Jaishankar has accused China of violating agreements on border management by amassing troops along the LAC. He has also made it clear that the normalisation of bilateral relations is dependent on the restoration of peace and tranquillity in the border areas.
The Chinese side, on the other hand, has called for the border standoff to be put in its “appropriate place” while the two countries take forward relations in other areas such as trade and investment. India-China ties are currently at their lowest point in more than six decades.
The 17th round of talks between senior military commanders of India and China since the standoff began was held at the Chushul-Moldo border meeting point on December 20 last year. The WMCC last met on October 14, 2022. There were no breakthroughs at both these meetings and the two sides only committed themselves to further talks to find an end to the standoff.
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