India and China on Thursday held another round of border talks aimed at breaking the impasse along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), with complete disengagement still remaining a far-off prospect and both sides appearing prepared for the long haul.
Thursday’s talks marked the fourth meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) since tensions began this summer. More than 10 rounds of high-level talks have since been held, including five rounds between the Corps Commanders in addition to the conversations between the Special Representatives and the Foreign Ministers.
There still remained gaps between the two sides, acknowledged a statement from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday, saying both “will continue to sincerely work towards complete disengagement of the troops” and “agreed to resolve the outstanding issues in an expeditious manner and in accordance with the existing agreements and protocols”.
Both were “in agreement that restoration of peace and tranquillity in the border areas would be essential for the overall development of bilateral relations”, it said.
China has not accepted India’s demand for a return to status quo ante before early May’s tensions. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) remains on India’s side of the LAC on the north bank of Pangong Lake, where most of the new fortifications it had built remain in place. Tensions also remain in the Depsang plains, where the PLA has obstructed India’s patrols from reaching the LAC, and in the Gogra-Hot Springs area, one of several spots where there remains a build-up in the depth areas.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said on Thursday both sides had, at the talks held between 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, “positively evaluated the progress made in the disengagement of the front-line forces of the two countries” and “agreed to conscientiously implement the consensus reached between the two Foreign Ministers and the Special Representatives on China-India boundary question, continue to maintain dialogue and communication through military and diplomatic channels, further cool down the border situation, properly handle the remaining issues on the ground, and jointly maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas”.
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Pakistan FM in China
China and Pakistan began their annual two-day strategic dialogue on Thursday in the southern Chinese island province of Hainan. Chinese officials said Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, was only the second top foreign official to visit China following the pandemic, with the Indonesian Foreign Minister also beginning a visit earlier this week.
“As the regional and international landscape is going through complex changes, in particular with the profound global impact of COVID-19, China and Pakistan, as all-weather strategic cooperative partners, need to further strengthen communication and cooperation to deal with external challenges, achieve greater development and bring more benefits to the people,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, describing the strategic dialogue, which was launched in March 2019, as “highly relevant and significant”.
Both would discuss “bilateral relations and regional and international issues of common concern”, he said, with issues expected to include the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, as well as both sides’ cooperation in South Asia and their respective recent tensions with India.