After a two and a half hour long meeting on Thursday night in Moscow, Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said they have agreed on a five-point course of action to de-escalate the four-month long stand-off on the Line of Actual Control.
Here is the joint press statement issued after the meeting:
H.E. Dr. S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister of India met H.E. Wang Yi, State Councillor and Foreign Minister of China on 10th September in Moscow on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting.
Both Ministers had a frank and constructive discussion on the developments in the India-China border areas as well as on India-China relations and agreed as follows:
1. The two Ministers agreed that both sides should take guidance from the series of consensus of the leaders on developing India-China relations, including not allowing differences to become disputes.
2. The two Foreign Ministers agreed that the current situation in the border areas is not in the interest of either side. They agreed therefore that the border troops of both sides should continue their dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain proper distance and ease tensions.
3. The two Ministers agreed that both sides shall abide by all the existing agreements and protocol on China-India boundary affairs, maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas and avoid any action that could escalate matters.
4. The two sides also agreed to continue to have dialogue and communication through the Special Representative mechanism on the India-China boundary question. They also agreed in this context that the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China border affairs (WMCC), should also continue its meetings.
5. The Ministers agreed that as the situation eases, the two sides should expedite work to conclude new Confidence Building Measures to maintain and enhance peace and tranquillity in the border areas.
September 10, 2020
Quoting unnamed sources, The Hindu reported that Jaishankar conveyed “strong concern” over the Chinese PLA troops mobilisation along with equipment along various points of the LAC.
“The Chinese side has not provided a credible explanation for this deployment. The provocative behaviour of Chinese frontline troops at numerous incidents of friction along the LAC also showed disregard for bilateral agreements and protocols. The Indian side clearly conveyed that it expected full adherence to all agreements on the management of border areas and would not countenance any attempt to change the status quo unilaterally,” the sources added.
While the agreement to de-escalate was made by the leaders, both sides said they have left it to the border commanders on the ground to work out the modalities of positioning for the troops while they would give the process diplomatic support.
Given that border commanders have been in contact on disengagement procedures since June and have made little headway thus far, it is unclear from the statement how the process would now change and hasten disengagement. Neither side has made a mention of restoring the “status quo ante” to positions held by troops in April, before the PLA mobilisation.
“The immediate task is to ensure a comprehensive disengagement of troops in all the friction areas. That is necessary to prevent any untoward incident in the future. The final disposition of the troop deployment to their permanent posts and the phasing of the process is to be worked out by the military commanders,” government sources said.
A statement issued by China’s Foreign Ministry on Friday quoted Wang as saying the relationship was “at a crossroads”. “But as long as the two sides keep moving the relationship in the right direction there will be no difficulty or challenge that can’t be overcome,” he said.
His quoted remarks were a contrast from recent statements from China, including following the September 4 meeting between the Defence Ministers in Moscow. He did not blame India for the recent crisis, which has been a point of emphasis in several Chinese statements from the Foreign Ministry and PLA in recent weeks.
The statement said Wang did outline “China’s stern position” in the border areas, “emphasising that the imperative is to immediately stop provocations such as firing and other dangerous actions that violate the commitments made by the two sides.”
“It is also important to move back all personnel and equipment that have trespassed,” he said.
“The frontier troops must quickly disengage so that the situation may de-escalate. The Chinese side is willing to support enhanced dialogue between the frontier troops on both sides to resolve specific issues. The Chinese side will stay in touch with the Indian side through diplomatic and military channels and be committed to restoring peace and tranquility in the border areas.”
He said it was “normal for China and India to have differences as two neighbouring major countries” and added that “it is important to put these differences in a proper context vis-a-vis bilateral relations.”
“As two large developing countries emerging rapidly, what China and India need right now is cooperation, not confrontation; and mutual trust, not suspicion. Whenever the situation gets difficult, it is all the more important to ensure the stability of the overall relationship and preserve mutual trust,” he said.
The Chinese statement quoted Jaishankar as saying India did not want tensions to escalate in border areas, India’s policy towards China had not changed and India believed China’s policy towards India had not changed either.
While India’s statements have emphasised that it will not accept any attempt to change the status quo along the border and that peace on the boundary was a prerequisite to taking forward the broader relationship, the Chinese Foreign Ministry statement on Friday quoted the Indian side as saying “it does not consider the development of India-China relations to be dependent on the settlement of the boundary question and India does not want to go backwards.”
The Chinese statement also did not acknowledge India’s demand for a return to the status quo ante before May’s transgressions by China but said that “the Indian side is prepared to work with China to ease tensions on the border through dialogue and negotiation and to restore and maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas.”
The meeting between the Foreign Ministers in Moscow was facilitated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov who hosted them at the SCO meeting and then a Russia-India-China lunch which set the stage for the bilateral talks on Thursday.
It is expected to be followed by talks of the Special Representatives and another meeting of the Working Mechanism on Consultation and Coordination on India-China border affairs (WMCC).
In November, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to attend the G-20 summit in Saudi Arabia which will be the first time the two leaders could meet.
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