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Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Beijing proposed Wang-Doval talks after Galwan to reduce tensions

The Indian Express has learnt that the Chinese proposed the SR-level talks, along with the activation of other channels, to resolve the tense situation in the wake of the Galwan Valley incident.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Updated: July 8, 2020 7:11:29 am
India china talks, india china border dispute, galwan, ajit doval, Wang Yi, doklam, who is wang yi, indian express, nsa ajit doval, Doval and Wang are SRs for the boundary talks, and have met in 2018 and 2019. (File)

The Special Representative-level talks Sunday, following which troops on both sides stepped back in the Galwan Valley, was proposed by Beijing after the June 15 incident in which 20 Indian Army personnel were killed in clashes with Chinese troops.

The Indian Express has learnt that the Chinese proposed the SR-level talks, along with the activation of other channels, to resolve the tense situation in the wake of the Galwan Valley incident.

The Indian side maintained that diplomatic and military channels, including the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC), were “appropriate” to de-escalate the situation.

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But Beijing insisted on SR-level talks to make any meaningful forward movement. It was then that a meeting between Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was scheduled.

Following the talks Sunday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry, in a statement, said both sides had candid and in-depth discussions on “easing the current border situation” and “reached positive common understandings”.

Doval and Wang are SRs for the boundary talks, and have met in 2018 and 2019. When they last met in December 2019, they decided to be “frank to each other” on issues irrespective of the public rhetoric on either side.

The two SRs agreed that while working-level mechanisms — be it the WMCC or military commanders — can engage each other on any border problem, they should be the final authority for approval of a resolution.

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On Beijing’s insistence for SR-level talks, New Delhi — it was negotiating through XIV Corps Commander Lt General Harinder Singh on the ground, Joint Secretary (East Asia) Naveen Srivastava leading the Indian WMCC team, and Ambassador to China Vikram Misri in Beijing — saw merit in the rationale that any commitment made at the lower level may have limitations.

Another factor in engaging Wang is that he is far more powerful than previous Foreign Ministers because he became a State Councillor in 2018. In China’s hierarchy-conscious system, he wields more authority than his predecessors in the Foreign Minister’s position.

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His strong stance during the Doklam crisis in 2017, when he was only Foreign Minister, is said to be one of the reasons for his promotion following Xi’s re-election in 2018. With his proximity to Xi well-known, clearly there was merit in engaging with him to defuse the LAC situation.

Doval, who returned to office last week after more than two weeks of quarantine, scheduled the conversation with Wang for July 5.

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