Indian and Chinese diplomats agreed Wednesday to “sincerely implement the understanding on disengagement and de-escalation” along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh where both sides have massed troops in a faceoff since May.
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At the meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation & Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC), held two days after Corps Commanders of the two armies reached a “mutual consensus to disengage” troops, the Indian side “conveyed its concerns” on the developments in eastern Ladakh, including the June 15 showdown in Galwan Valley in which 20 Indian Army personnel were killed.
The Ministry of External Affairs said it was emphasised that both sides should “strictly respect and observe” the Line of Actual Control.
The Chinese statement mentioned the exchange of “candid and in-depth” views on the border situation and how both sides said they will “earnestly implement the important consensus” reached by the Foreign Ministers during their June 17 phone conversation, and “actively accommodate with the two military forces to implement the outcome reached” at the June 6 and June 22 military talks.
The Chinese Defence Ministry, however, struck a jarring note, echoing Beijing’s claim to the Galwan Valley. “China has sovereignty over the Galwan Valley region and the Chinese border troops have been patrolling and on duty in this region for many years,” it said. This is the first time that the Chinese armed forces have staked claim to an area that is well within Indian territory.
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Naveen Srivastava, Joint Secretary (East Asia) in the Ministry of External Affairs, and Hong Liang, Director General in Department of Boundary and Oceanic Affairs, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led their delegations at the meeting of the WMCC.
The two diplomats, assisted by officials, held talks for two-and-half hours via videoconference. It was their first engagement since the talks Monday between XIV Corps Commander Lt General Harinder Singh and South Xinjiang Military Region Commander Major General Liu Lin at Moldo, the Chinese border point opposite Chushul.
The Corps Commanders reached “mutual consensus to disengage” with detailed discussions on the modalities of a sector-wise, stage-wise disengagement on the LAC. But no timeline for the disengagement process was finalised.
Moving on this, the WMCC, sources said, decided to “reaffirm” and “build forward” on the agreements reached at Moldo meeting. The idea, sources said, is to give a political framework to the understanding at the military level.
In its statement, the MEA said: “The two delegations agreed that implementation of this understanding expeditiously, in accordance with the bilateral agreements and protocols, would help ensure peace and tranquility in border areas and the development of broader relationship between the two countries. In this context, they also took note of the discussions in the second meeting of the Senior Commanders held on 22 June.”
The two sides also agreed to maintain communication both at diplomatic and military level including under the framework of WMCC to “resolve the existing situation peacefully”, it said.
This was reiterated by the Chinese side which said they “agreed to strictly abide by the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries and a series of agreements and protocols signed by the two sides, further strengthen the confidence building measures in the military field so as to jointly maintain peace and tranquility of the border areas”.
The meeting between the diplomats came on the day Chinese Defence Ministry spokesperson Senior Colonel Wu Qian repeated Beijing’s demand that India hold its men accountable for the June 15 clash, and work with China to maintain peace in the border region.
He claimed that since April, Indian border troops began to “unilaterally” build facilities along the LAC in the Galwan Valley region, and that China had lodged “representations and oppositions many times”.
“The Chinese border troops have been forced to take necessary responding measures and strengthen management and control in these areas,” the Chinese Defence Ministry statement said.
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