Asserting India’s claim on the Galwan Valley of Ladakh, where 20 Indian Army personnel were killed in violent clashes with Chinese troops on Monday night, New Delhi has told Beijing that making “exaggerated and untenable” claims is contrary to the understanding reached in talks between military commanders on June 6.
“Given its responsible approach to border management, India is very clear that all its activities are always within the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control. We expect the Chinese side to also confine its activities to its side of the LAC,” the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Anurag Srivastava, said on Thursday.
He said the Chinese side “unilaterally attempted to change the status quo”, took “premeditated and planned action” and was “directly responsible” for the casualties suffered by “both sides”. “This could have been avoided had the agreement at the higher level been scrupulously followed by the Chinese side,” he said.
Responding to questions, he said “no Indian troops are missing in action”.
“While we remain firmly convinced of the need for maintenance of peace and tranquility in the border areas, and the resolution of differences through dialogue, at the same time, as the Prime Minister stated yesterday, we are also strongly committed to ensuring India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.
As New Delhi weighs its options of diplomatic, economic and military response, The Indian Express has learnt that there is “intense debate” within the government on whether “restoration of status quo ante” is “enough”, or choosing more “kinetic options” is “necessary”. “It’s not going to be an easy call,” said a source.
Multiple meetings have taken place across North and South Blocks to assess the potential challenges and risks associated with each decision.
With India not adopting the coercive diplomacy tactic — as it did against Pakistan by briefing foreign ambassadors — it is learnt that New Delhi wants “like-minded” countries to not exacerbate the situation by making “unnecessary statements” that may complicate domestic public opinion and raise expectations. Such feelers are learnt to have been sent to “like-minded” countries.
Meanwhile, Beijing said on Thursday that the two sides have agreed to deal with the “serious matter” in a “just manner” and both sides are in communication and coordination through diplomatic and military channels to de-escalate the tensions as soon as possible.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, however, reiterated China’s allegation, squarely blaming the Indian troops for the incident. “The right and wrong of this case is very clear and responsibility doesn’t lie with the Chinese side,” he said.
Articulating India’s position on the Galwan Valley on Wednesday night, Srivastava said: “As we have conveyed earlier today, External Affairs Minister and the State Councillor and Foreign Minister of China had a phone conversation on recent developments in Ladakh… Both sides have agreed that the overall situation should be handled in a responsible manner and that the understandings reached between senior commanders on 6th June should be implemented sincerely. Making exaggerated and untenable claims is contrary to this understanding.”
Earlier this week, the PLA western theatre command spokesperson Colonel Zhang Shiuli had said that “the sovereignty over the Galwan Valley area has always belonged to China.”
Editorial | Easier said
The MEA spokesperson also confirmed that Jaishankar will attend the Russia-India-China trilateral foreign ministers’ meeting on June 23. The trilateral will discuss the Covid-19 pandemic crisis.
Srivastava said India and China have been discussing the de-escalation through military and diplomatic channels.
“During his telephone conversation with the Chinese Foreign Minister, EAM conveyed that the need of the hour was for the Chinese side to reassess its actions and take corrective steps. They should strictly respect and observe the LAC and not take any unilateral action to alter it. It was agreed that both sides would implement the dis-engagement understanding of June 6 sincerely. Neither side would take any action to escalate matters and instead, ensure peace and tranquility as per bilateral agreements and protocols,” he said.
He said the two sides are in regular touch, through their respective embassies and foreign offices. “At the ground level, the two sides have maintained communication at the commanders’ level. Meetings of other established diplomatic mechanisms such as Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on Border Affairs are under discussion,” he said.