In first remarks after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe met in Moscow to discuss the Ladakh crisis, India Saturday said Singh told the Chinese to “work with the Indian side for complete disengagement at the earliest from all friction areas including Pangong Lake as well as de-escalation in border areas in accordance with the bilateral agreements and protocols”.
In a statement, the Ministry of Defence quoted Singh saying the “current situation should be handled responsibly” and “neither side should take any further action that could either complicate the situation or escalate matters in the border areas”.
The Chinese statement on the meeting quoted Wei saying “the relationship between the two countries and the armed forces has been severely affected by the border issue recently” and the “cause and truth of the current tension on the border between China and India are very clear, and the responsibility lies entirely with India”.
“China’s territory cannot be lost. The Chinese military is fully determined, capable, and confident to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Wei told Singh, according to the Chinese statement.
It, however, underlined that “both sides should earnestly implement the important consensus reached by Chairman (Xi) Jinping and Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi and insist on solving problems through dialogue and consultation”.
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The Indian statement too held the other side responsible for the crisis that began in May. It said the “actions of the Chinese troops, including amassing a large number of troops, their aggressive behaviour and attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo were in violation of the bilateral agreements, and not in keeping with the understandings reached between the Special Representatives of two sides”.
Singh “stated clearly that while the Indian troops had always taken a very responsible approach towards border management, at the same time there should also be no doubt about our determination to protect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
He “categorically conveyed India’s position on the developments along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) including in the Galwan Valley in the Western Sector of the India-China border areas in the last few months”.
Last weekend, in pre-emptive moves to scuttle Chinese plans, Indian troops raced to occupy strategic heights on the south bank of Pangong Tso and Rechin La near Rezang La, giving them a commanding view of the terrain including the Spanggur Gap and the Chinese garrison at Moldo.
India hopes this changed situation on the ground in Ladakh will make the Chinese return to the disengagement talks table. The Chinese have been reluctant to step back from the Pangong Tso north bank and Gogra Post after crossing points which India says mark the LAC.
Sources familiar with details of the Moscow meeting said Singh told the Chinese that “India will not cede an inch of land and we are determined to protect the integrity and sovereignty of our country at all costs”.
An officer in the defence establishment said the Chinese request for a meeting with Singh was the third such request in the last 80 days, and was “accentuated by the occupation of strategic points and heights by our armed forces in the last week of August”.
The Chinese statement mentioned that Wei suggested both sides “maintain communication at all levels including between the two ministers”.
Singh, on his part, conveyed to the Chinese that both sides “should continue their discussions, including through diplomatic and military channels, to ensure complete disengagement and de-escalation and full restoration of peace and tranquillity along the LAC at the earliest”.
The Chinese statement too said “it is hoped that the two sides will adopt a responsible attitude to achieve full disengagement of front-line forces as soon as possible, avoid taking measures that escalate or complicate the situation, prevent differences from becoming disputes, and push the relations between the two countries and the armed forces back on track as soon as possible”.
It asked India to “strictly abide by the series of agreements reached by the two sides, effectively strengthen the control of the front-line forces, refrain from provoking the current Line of Actual Control, refrain from any actions that may cause the situation to heat up, and refrain from deliberately hyping and disseminating negative information”.
It said both sides should “focus on the overall situation of Sino-Indian relations and regional peace and stability, work together and meet each other halfway, push the current situation to cool down as soon as possible, and maintain peace and tranquility in the Sino-Indian border area”.