External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said on Thursday there was still “no clarity” on the reasons behind the April 15 incursion by the People’s Liberation Army in Ladakh, but added that he did not seek an explanation from the Chinese during talks here.
Mr. Khurshid, who held talks with his counterpart Wang Yi over three hours on Thursday, said both sides had expressed “satisfaction” over the fact that the stand-off in Ladakh was resolved peacefully through existing mechanisms.
Asked if he had sought clarity on the reasons behind the PLA’s move to set up tents on the Depsang plains — a move that Indian officials described as an unexpected provocation that broke with established patrolling patterns followed by both sides in disputed areas — Mr. Khurshid told reporters, “I did not look for [clarity]. We are not even ready with our analysis of why it happened.”
“It is not clear why it happened,” he added. “I think they were not offering us that background, and we were not asking for that background… There was a tremendous sense of satisfaction that it was resolved in the manner it was resolved.”
Mr. Wang told Mr. Khurshid his visit to Beijing was “hugely important” to pave the way for the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s May 19 visit to India — his first overseas trip after he took over in March. That the Chinese side have framed his visit as heralding a new chapter in ties has made the April 15 incident all the more puzzling, officials acknowledge.
Mr. Khurshid, however, said “it is not very helpful at this stage to apportion blame between them and us, and it will only take away from the sense of relief and satisfaction that it was resolved in time not to upset the apple cart of what is going on, which is far more important”.
The External Affairs Minister said he did not think the incursion was related to ongoing talks between India and China over a border defence cooperation agreement. The Chinese side submitted a draft to India on May 4, which India is currently studying.
“I don’t think this incident should be seen or indicated as part of flagging or a reminder as a nudge or push to solve the border issue,” he said. He said both sides had a “shared conclusion” that existing systems were working.
Mr. Khurshid said the 16th round of talks between the Special Representatives on the boundary question will take place in the next two months. He said China had appointed the former Foreign Minister and top diplomat Yang Jiechi as the new SR to succeed recently retired former State Councillor Dai Bingguo, who chaired the previous round with National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon.
That meeting would provide a platform for both sides to discuss in greater depth what led to the stand-off. Indian officials will on Friday speak with Chinese officials handling boundary affairs and may also speak with officials from the PLA on Saturday.
Mr. Khurshid, who will meet Mr. Li, the Premier, and Mr. Yang, the new State Councillor, on Friday, said he also “flagged” to China’s attention India’s concern over certain aspects of China’s relations with Pakistan, specifically mentioning its nuclear programme. China has recently signed deals to sell nuclear reactors to Pakistan, going against the Nuclear Suppliers Group’s guidelines.
“We only urge them not to allow anybody to use their relationship with them to India’s detriment,” he said. “I was not there to make him accountable to NSG requirements. Those are multilateral agreements to which I am sure they know their responsibility… and I am sure they will take the appropriate position.”
He also raised China’s plans to build three new dams on the Brahmaputra, with India suggesting that existing mechanisms to share hydrological data be expanded to address concerns. He said he received a “positive” response from the Chinese, although no commitment as yet.
On trade, Mr. Khurshid said he raised the fast-widening trade imbalance, with China expressing interest in “major investment” in India and supporting liberalising the visa regime to offset the deficit.
China, he added, had responded positively to India’s concerns over the cases involving two traders in Yiwu, Deepak Raheja and Shyamsunder Aggarwal, who were sentenced last year, and six diamond merchants. He said China had granted the two Yiwu traders a concession. “They have been released and gone back home,” he said.