India and China on Friday agreed to push for a “timely” and “complete” disengagement of troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and to hold another round of military-level talks, set for next week, to address persisting border tensions.
This followed talks held in the day under the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on India-China Border Affairs, convened through videoconference. This was the second WMCC meeting in the past two weeks, and only the 16th meeting of the body in eight years, underlining the unprecedented recent state of affairs along the border following the June 15 clash in Galwan Valley .
The disengagement process is still in progress in several spots along the LAC, and there remains a substantial build-up of thousands of troops along the border, including in-depth areas.
Consensus reached by Special Representatives
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that both sides reaffirmed they “will ensure complete disengagement of the troops along the LAC and de-escalation from India-China border areas for full restoration of peace and tranquillity”, and follow the consensus reached by the two Special Representatives (SRs), National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and State Councillor Wang Yi, during their call on July 5.
“As agreed by the two SRs, the Senior Commanders will meet soon to discuss further steps so as to ensure complete disengagement and de-escalation in a timely manner,” the MEA said, adding that both sides reviewed the situation “including the progress made in ongoing disengagement.”
The fourth meeting at the Corps Commander-level is expected to take place next week, to take forward the next phase of disengagement.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement that both sides agreed “to continue to maintain dialogue and consultations through military and diplomatic channels, promote further de-escalation of the situation on the ground, strengthen confidence-building measures in the border areas, and properly handle border issues in a timely manner to avoid differences becoming disputes.”
The talks were led by Naveen Srivastava, Joint Secretary (East Asia) in the MEA, and Hong Liang, Director General of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs of the MFA.
Envoy’s video address
On Friday, the Chinese Embassy in India released an 18-minute video address by Ambassador Sun Weidong. He said the June 15 clash in Galwan Valley “was a situation neither China nor India would like to see.”
He said the two SRs on July 5 “reached a positive consensus on easing the current border situation.” “Currently, our front line troops are disengaging on the ground in accordance with the consensus reached by the Military Corps Commander talks,” he said. “At the backdrop of what recently happened at the Galwan Valley, some quarters in India raise doubts about the consensus reached by the two leaders, and have wrong perception of the direction of China-India relations.”
He said the boundary question was “sensitive and complicated”. “We need to find a fair and reasonable solution mutually acceptable through equal consultation and peaceful negotiation. Pending an ultimate settlement, we both agree to work together to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas”.
Mr. Sun reiterated the recent statement made by Mr. Wang on July 5 that “the right and wrong of what recently happened at Galwan Valley is very clear” and that “China will firmly safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and ensure the peace and tranquility in the border areas.”
On recent calls to “decouple” India-China economic relations, he said “any self-protection, non-tariff barriers and restrictive measures against China are unfair to Chinese enterprises, unfair to Indian employees who lost their jobs as a result, and unfair to Indian consumers who can not get access to the products and services they deserve.”
He said, “I believe China and India have the wisdom and capability to properly handle differences and not fall into the trap of conflict. We should seek common development as partners rather than opponents or adversaries. Why should we fight against each other that will only hurt those close to us and gladden the foes?”