With India firmly conveying to China that the prolongation of the existing situation in eastern Ladakh was visibly impacting the bilateral ties in a “negative manner”, Beijing on Thursday said it is ready to seek a mutually acceptable solution to the issues that require “emergency response” through negotiation and consultation.
During their hour-long in-person meeting on the sidelines of an SCO conclave in Dushanbe on Wednesday, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also told his Chinese counterpart and State Councilor Wang Yi that any unilateral change in the status quo along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) was “not acceptable” to India and that the overall ties can only develop after full restoration of peace and tranquillity in eastern Ladakh.
The meeting in Tajikistan’s capital took place amidst a stalemate in the disengagement process between the two militaries in the remaining friction points in eastern Ladakh after they withdrew troops and weapons from the Pangong Lake areas in February following series of military and diplomatic talks to resolve the standoff since May last year.
In a statement posted on its website on Thursday on Wang’s talks with Jaishankar, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said, the minister stated the overall situation in the border area has de-escalated after the withdrawal of troops from the Galwan Valley and Pangong Lake areas.
However, the relations between India and China are still at a low level which is not in the interest of either side, Wang said.
While reiterating China’s oft-repeated stand that it was not responsible for the China-India border standoff, Wang, however, said that “China is ready to find a solution acceptable to both sides on the issue that needs emergency response through negotiation and consultation.”
“The two sides must place the border issue in an appropriate position in bilateral relations, expand the positive momentum of bilateral cooperation and create favourable conditions for resolving differences through negotiation,” he said.
The nature of China-India relations is how two adjacent developing countries look at each other, co-exist in harmony and help each other succeed, he said.
“China’s strategic assessment of China-India relations has not changed. China and India pose no threat but offer development opportunities to each other. The two countries are partners rather than rivals or enemies,” the Chinese foreign minister said.
The principles of China-India relations should still be mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, and mutual respect for each other’s core interests, he said.
The interaction between the two countries should still be seeking mutual benefits and complementarity, pursuing healthy competition and avoiding confrontation, with cooperation as the main theme, Wang said.
While China moved its troops from Galwan Valley and Pangong Tso, the disengagement has not been completed from other friction points like Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang in eastern Ladakh.
In his meeting with Wang, Jaishankar firmly conveyed that the prolongation of the existing situation in eastern Ladakh was visibly impacting the bilateral ties in a “negative manner” and rued that there was no forward movement from the Chinese side since the disengagement in Pangong Lake areas in February that had created conditions for resolving the remaining issues.
Unilateral change is status quo not acceptable: Jaishankar
Jaishankar told Wang that any unilateral change in the status quo along the LAC was “not acceptable” to India and that the overall ties can only develop after full restoration of peace and tranquillity in eastern Ladakh, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs on the talks.
Wang, according to the Chinese foreign ministry, also said that the two sides must consolidate the results of disengagement that have been achieved, strictly abide by the agreement and common understanding of the two sides, and “refrain from taking unilateral actions in sensitive and controversial areas, in order to avoid any recurrence of tensions due to misunderstanding and miscalculation.”
“We must take a long-term perspective and gradually move from emergency response toward regular management and control, to avoid unnecessary interruptions of border-related issues to China-India relations,” he was quoted as saying by the Chinese foreign ministry statement.
Recalling their last meeting in Moscow, in September 2020, Jaishankar also emphasised the need to follow through on the agreement reached then and complete the disengagement, resolving the remaining issues along the LAC in eastern Ladakh at the earliest.
It has been reported that each side currently has around 50,000 to 60,000 troops along the LAC in the sensitive sector.
The Chinese foreign ministry statement pointed out that during the meeting between Wang and Jaishankar, both sides believe the two countries must lift bilateral relations out of the low level and achieve healthy and stable development. The two sides encourage strengthening consultations on the border issue through the existing mechanism to consolidate the achieved results, and working towards turning emergency response to regular management and control to safeguard the peace and tranquillity of the border area, the statement added.