The stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops in Ladakh has been “resolved”, and both sides would retreat to old positions on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) by the end of this month, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj announced after a meeting with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at the United Nations on Thursday.
In Beijing, China’s foreign ministry said the two countries can now work towards maintaining “peace and tranqullity in the border areas”.
Swaraj, who spoke to Indian reporters ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s arrival in New York, also blamed Islamabad for “spoiling” the scheduled secretary-level talks between the two countries last month.
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was scheduled to address the UN General Assembly on Friday, and a top Pakistani official accompanying him told reporters here on Thursday that there was “no reason” for him to not raise the Kashmir issue in his speech.
“I am happy to tell you that both nations (India and China) have sat down and resolved the (LAC standoff) issue. Timelines have been decided,” Swaraj told Indian reporters after a meeting with IBSA (India-Brazil-South Africa) foreign ministers on the sidelines of the UNGA session.
Swaraj said she had met with Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi at the United Nations, and discussed the stand-off with him. Swaraj described the resolution of the matter as a “big accomplishment”.
Troops from the two sides lined up in Chumar in a face-off that began in the middle of the month, casting, Swaraj said, a “shadow” over the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to India, which was otherwise “very historical” and saw “very good outcomes”.
Swaraj said the withdrawal of the troops would begin on Friday and, by September 30, both sides would return to their September 1, 2014 positions along the LAC.
“The bad phase will end, and by September 30th, the withdrawal of troops will be completed. I talked about this with the Chinese Foreign Minister. I believe this is a big accomplishment,” Swaraj said. She described her meeting with Wang as “very successful”.
In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing on Friday, “As the Indian foreign minister said, the dispute has effectively been managed and the border area is in tranquillity. So we believe with the concerted efforts with India, we can maintain peace and tranquillity in the border area.”
Hua said foreign ministers Swaraj and Wang had also discussed bilateral issues at the meeting at the UN. “Wang said said President Xi has just concluded a successful and historical visit to India which advanced the friendship between the two leaders and two peoples,” she said.
On Pakistan, Swaraj said Islamabad “spoiled the game” by choosing to talk to Kashmiri separatist leaders a week before the scheduled August 25 meeting between foreign secretaries Sujatha Singh and Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary in Islamabad. India called off the dialogue on August 18, an hour after Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit met Hurriyat leader Shabir Shah in Delhi.
“New (Narendra Modi) government has given a new signal. So they (Pakistan) spoiled the talks, they spoiled the game,” Swaraj said when asked for a reaction to Pakistan’s National Security and Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz’s remarks earlier on Thursday that since it was India that had cancelled the talks, they could now resume only if New Delhi took the initiative.
“No question of (reaching out) first or second. As far as our reaction is concerned, we have said repeatedly that if a reaction had to come it had to come at this time only. The initiative was there from our side,” Swaraj said.
She said it was Modi who had invited Sharif for his swearing-in on May 26, and that it had been decided at the bilateral meeting between the two prime ministers that trade should start immediately at the Wagah-Attari border.
Sharif, Swaraj said, had suggested that the foreign secretaries should meet, and “we agreed to that”.
“But just as the talks are about to happen on the 25th, (just) prior to that the (Pakistani envoy) is talking with Hurriyat leaders, then who spoiled the game?” she asked.
Swaraj said Pakistani leaders visiting India had met the Hurriyat earlier, but “for the first time, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came to India and he did not talk to them because he understood India’s signal. Things began from there.
“But before any talks, the (Pakistani) ambassador has met with the Hurriyat leaders, that has never happened,” she said.
Aziz had told reporters that there was nothing new in Pakistani officials talking to Hurriyat leaders, which has been happening for “the last 20 years”. He had added that there was no possibility of Prime Ministers Modi and Sharif meeting in New York.
India’s response to High Commissioner Basit’s meeting with the separatists had been an “over-reaction”, Aziz said. “Hurriyat talks were nothing new. (Pakistan officials) have been meeting Hurriyat leaders since last 20 years. There will be no initiative (to re-start the dialogue process) from our side. Initiative has to come from India.”
Pakistan’s foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary spoke similarly. “It is India which cancelled the talks. It’s for them (India) to take the initiative for any interaction (between the two countries),” Chaudhary, who is in New York as part of Sharif’s delegation, said.
Pakistan believes that a plebiscite is still the solution to the Kashmir issue, and there was no reason why Sharif should not speak about it in his speech at the UN, Chaudhary said.
(With PTI Inputs)