India and China on Tuesday exchanged sharp statements blaming each other for the continuing border tensions , with New Delhi describing China's Line of Actual Control (LAC) claims as “untenable” and Beijing saying it “did not recognise” the Union Territory of Ladakh.
"India has never accepted the so-called unilaterally defined 1959 Line of Actual Control (LAC),” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said, in response to a statement from China’s Foreign Ministry that the LAC was “clear” and that “it is the LAC of November 7, 1959”.
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The LAC of 1959 was first referenced in a letter from then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai to Jawaharlal Nehru — an idea rejected then by Nehru and subsequently never accepted by India.
A South Block official said China had, this summer, gone even beyond this 1959 claim line. "While we don’t recognise the 1959 claim line, even going by their own 1959 line which runs near Patrolling Point (PP)14, the clash in Galwan Valley happened approximately 800 metres west of PP14,” the official said. "So they are violating their own claims".
India’s position that it never accepted the 1959 line was "consistent and well known, including to the Chinese side,” the MEA said in a statement, adding that both sides had, in previous bilateral border agreements including the 1993 Agreement on Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the LAC, 1996 Agreement on Confidence Building Measures in the military field and 2005 Agreement on Political Parameters and Guiding Principles, "committed to clarification and confirmation of the LAC to reach a common understanding of the alignment of the LAC.”
"In fact, the two sides had engaged in an exercise to clarify and confirm the LAC up to 2003, but this process could not proceed further as the Chinese side did not show a willingness to pursue it,” the MEA said. "Therefore, the insistence now of the Chinese side that there is only one LAC is contrary to the solemn commitments made by China in these agreements…It is the Chinese side which by its attempts to transgress the LAC in various parts of the Western Sector, has tried to unilaterally alter the status quo...We therefore expect that the Chinese side will sincerely and faithfully abide by all agreements and understandings in their entirety and refrain from advancing an untenable unilateral interpretation of the LAC.”
In Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry, in response to a question on India’s border infrastructure projects in Ladakh, said it did not “recognise" Ladakh, reiterating its statements from last year that described the creation of the union territory as “illegal” because it included Aksai Chin, currently occupied by China, within its boundaries.
"China has not recognised Ladakh Union Territory, illegally set up by the Indian side,” spokesperson Wang Wenbin said. "We are opposed to conducting infrastructure development for military purposes in the border area. Based on the two sides' consensus, no side should engage in the border areas in any activities that might complicate the situation, to avoid undermining two sides efforts to ease the situation.”
The statements came amid a continuing stalemate along the border. Both sides agreed to not add troops to an already tense LAC following the sixth round of talks between Corp Commanders on September 21, but there has not yet been agreement on disengagement and returning to the status quo prior to May’s transgressions by China.
Asked about China’s own infrastructure projects in border areas and the asymmetry that Beijing has enjoyed because of its infrastructure developments, Mr. Wang said China "consistently and strictly abides by the agreements signed with the Indian side”.
"For a long time, the Chinese side has been conducting activities on the Chinese side of the LAC and they have always complied with relevant agreements,” he said. “We hope for the Indian side to work for the same purpose, together with China, to achieve the cooling of temperature on the ground and to prevent adding complex factors to the two sides concerted efforts to ease the situation.”