Cross-border Working Mechanism meet discussed holding flag meetings between first lines of defence
India and China are considering augmenting the existing confidence-building measures in a bid to ensure that incidents like April’s three-week standoff in Ladakh’s Depsang Valley do not recur. Officials attending the third meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs discussed the possibility of holding flag meetings between non-Army border forces — mainly the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and its Chinese counterparts.
The eight representatives from each side also talked about increasing the number of venues for holding flag meetings. Though the discussions were dominated by the Depsang standoff, no clear answer emerged as to how the incident managed to occur, said government sources.
The 18-month-old Working Mechanism consists of multi-ministry representatives headed by a Foreign Office official from each side. The setup was meant to prevent gaps in communication between Ministries on both sides whenever an incident took place on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Both sides acknowledged that the joint Working Mechanism left a lot to be desired and was tested in a major way in April. Chinese troops had pitched tents on a sliver of land claimed by both sides and refused to budge for three weeks. India retaliated by putting up tents, including a forward position that was barely 200 metres from the Chinese forward tent.
Though Chinese and Indian troops went back to other original bases and not a shot was fired, the Working Mechanism felt such incidents ought to be eliminated altogether. In this respect, they decided to consider the proposal of involving the auxiliary forces in flag meetings that are till now held between the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army. Discussions touched on copying the India-Pakistan mechanism — flag meetings are held between the Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers.
From the Chinese side, two persons from the eight-member team were drawn from the PLA — Wang Jing and Cai Wei, both from the Border Department in the Chinese Ministry of Defence (MoD). India had three from the security forces — two from the Defence Ministry and one from the ITBP.
The Working Mechanism was set up in January last year and essentially tries to ensure that both sides adhere to the spirit of the three India-China pacts on maintaining tranquillity on the LAC. The next interaction in China will pay close attention to beefing up Articles III and IV of the 2005 protocol that defined the modalities for implementation of the military field agreements of ‘93 and ‘96.