China on Sunday said it welcomed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s decision to “not accentuate” the standoff between troops in Ladakh, adding that its government was “ready to work together with India” to resolve differences.
The Indian and Chinese militaries have been grappling with tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) over the past two weeks after Chinese soldiers erected tented posts in a disputed area in eastern Ladakh. The Indian military have retaliated in like manner, leading to the standoff.
Flag meetings and diplomatic contact through various channels in the Ministry of External Affairs, including the joint consultation mechanism on border affairs, have not been able to defuse the situation.
On Sunday, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said the political leadership had, so far, stayed away as the Army and Indian representatives in the joint mechanism were confident about handling the situation.
“We don’t have to lose sleep over it,” Mr. Khurshid told The Hindu in Moscow, currently on a visit there. “Even China doesn’t consider it an insoluble issue. If it doesn't get resolved, [then] we have to step in,” he said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had, on Saturday, played down the situation, terming it “a localised problem”.
“We do not want to accentuate the situation… We do believe that it is possible to resolve this… localised problem. I think talks are going on”.
The Chinese government said, in response to Dr. Singh’s comments, that it was “ready to work with India to properly deal with differences”.
In its statement issued on Sunday, the Foreign Ministry said: “We have noted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement.
“The two sides have been in communication through the working mechanism for consultation and coordination on boundary affairs, border meetings and diplomatic channels for a solution to the incident in part of the western section of the China-India border.
“We stand ready to work together with India to properly deal with differences and maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas in a bid to boost the healthy and stable development of the China-India strategic and cooperative partnership”.
Mr. Khurshid is due to travel to Beijing on May 9, on a visit that is expected to lay the groundwork for the new Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India next month.
Officials on both sides hope the border situation can be resolved by then.
Failure to do so, analysts here have said, will cast a shadow on a visit expected to be the new Premier’s first overseas trip after he took over in March.
Chinese officials have, however, released little information on the actual on-the-ground situation in Ladakh and on what prompted the escalation in tensions.
The Defence Ministry here last week reiterated that its frontier troops had not trespassed at the LAC. They did not, however, reply to questions from The Hindu regarding what prompted the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to set up tented posts in a disputed area and trigger the standoff, especially only a month ahead of Mr. Li’s visit.
Indian officials say there are variances in the perception of where the LAC runs in the region. Both sides have, in the past, patrolled up to their claim lines, which are overlapping in this region.
It was, however, rare and unprecedented for any side to take the step of setting up a post — even a temporary one — in a disputed and highly-sensitive region. In two flag meetings held over the past fortnight, the Chinese side too reportedly voiced its concerns about the recently erected Indian fortifications.
Amid the tensions, a delegation of Indian military officials spent three days in China last week, on an scheduled visit to coordinate arrangements for joint defence exercises expected to be held later this year.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Sunday reiterated that both countries had “committed themselves to settling disputes, including the boundary question, through peaceful negotiation and preventing the disputes from affecting the development of bilateral relations.”
(With inputs from Sandeep Dikshit in Moscow)