Departing from past practice, the Chinese army did not send an invitation to its Indian counterpart for a ceremonial border personnel meeting (BPM) to mark China’s National Day on Sunday. This follows a no-show by the Chinese in response to an Indian invitation to attend a ceremonial BPM on Indian Independence Day on August 15.
This is the first time since 2005 that there was no BPM held on the India-China border. Although tensions between India and China have reduced following the disengagement between the two armies at the face-off site in Dolam plateau on August 28, relations between the two armies have not reverted to normal so far.
“There was no invitation sent to us by the Chinese,” official sources told The Indian Express, about the ceremonial meeting which was to be hosted by the Chinese at five designated places on the border.
These ceremonial meetings include a small cultural show, a sporting contest and a meal. They are attended by officers, soldiers and families from both sides, and are different from flag-meetings, which are convened to discuss border issues.
Both sides had agreed to two ceremonial meetings every year, starting from 2005, consequent to the signing of the Protocol on Modalities for the Implementation of Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field Along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas.
As per Article V of the Protocol, “Both sides shall hold two additional border meetings each year at Spanggur Gap in the Western Sector, Nathu La in the Sikkim Sector and Bum La in the Eastern Sector respectively in celebration of the National Day or Army Day of either side.” The other two meeting points – Kibithu-Damai in the eastern sector and Lipulekh Pass/Qiang La in the middle sector – were also mentioned in the 2005 Protocol.
The two sides then mutually decided to host these ceremonial border meetings on August 1 – China’s Army Day — and August 15, as other national or army days fall during the winter months when holding a ceremonial meeting is not possible in snow-bound areas. The year the Chinese are unable to host the ceremonial BPM on August 1, they extend an invitation to the Indian army on October 1, their National Day.
This year, they didn’t extended an invite on either occasions, but also refused to accept the Indian invitation for August 15. As the Indian and Chinese soldiers were in a face-off at Dolam plateau in August, the Chinese action was understandable in the context of tensions in bilateral ties. By not extending an invite for ceremonial meeting on October 1, the Chinese have conveyed an impression that the relations are not fully back to normal yet.
This runs contrary to the statement by Chinese envoy to India, Luo Zhaohui, who on Friday said: “We should turn the old page and start a new chapter with the same pace and direction. We should dance together. We should make one plus one eleven. China is the largest trading partner of India. We have made a lot of progress at the bilateral level, as well as in international and regional affairs”.