The five points agreed by India and China to reduce tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) are a template of the “principles of disengagement”, according to a senior official privy to the meeting between External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
However, deep divergences still remain in the positions taken by both sides after the meeting, as is clear from the subsequent notes released by the Chinese side, and subsequently the Indian side, detailing their position.
According to the official, the Chinese side walked into the Moscow meeting, initially seeking to deny any “sense of crisis”, holding “it is normal” for two neighbouring major countries to have differences, and the two sides should “move on” from the current stand-off “peacefully”. But this was countered immediately by the Indian delegation. India maintained that the large mobilisation of troops by the PLA had led to a very serious and dangerous situation at the LAC, where any small incident or clash could lead to a larger conflagration.
The official also questioned China’s characterisation of India’s positions in at least three places in a document released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry. The document claimed that the “Indian side does not consider the relations to be dependent on the settlement of the boundary question”. This is in sharp contrast to what Mr. Jaishankar said at the meeting and has repeated publicly, asserting that the status of bilateral ties cannot be delinked from the situation at the LAC.
Neither did Mr. Jaishankar say, as the Chinese note claims, that “the Indian side believes that China’s policy towards India has not changed.” In fact, the sources said, India felt China’s changed behaviour at the LAC was responsible for the current crisis and it had yet to “provide a credible explanation for this deployment” and for its “provocative behaviour”. The statement by the Chinese side said “what China and India need right now is cooperation, not confrontation; and mutual trust, not suspicion.”
However, the Indian side maintained that there cannot be “business as usual” unless the trust between the two countries is rebuilt and the “peace and tranquillity” at the border is fully restored.
Officials present at the meeting said the scene now “shifts” to the ground commanders, and the Foreign Ministers would then review the progress at the LAC.