Dangerous impasse: On India-China border row

Winter has set in Ladakh, and the chill in India’s relations with China remains after more than a month since the last round of talks between Corps Commanders to take forward disengagement on the Line of Actual Control (LAC). There is no road map yet to a return to the status quo prior to May’s transgressions by China, which, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar acknowledged last week, have brought ties to the “most difficult phase” in the last 30 to 40 years. Mr. Jaishankar, speaking to a think-tank, said the relationship had been “profoundly disturbed” this summer, and China had “literally brought tens of thousands of soldiers in full military preparation mode right to the LAC in Ladakh”. The Minister’s forthrightness has stood as a sharp contrast to the persistent denials from the government this summer about the seriousness of the border situation, which it was forced to confront publicly after the tragic loss of 20 Indian soldiers in the Galwan Valley in June. His remarks drew a strong response from China, which yet again blamed India for the crisis, saying “the responsibility totally lies with the Indian side” and that it had strictly abided by border agreements, a claim that does not square with the unprecedented mobilisation of Chinese troops to various points across the LAC since early May. The Ministry of External Affairs then responded, asking China to “match its words with actions”.

The sharp exchange last week underlined the perilous state of relations and the long road ahead towards restoring normalcy, which, India has made clear, is predicated on peace on the border. In an interview to this newspaper on December 2, the External Affairs Minister cautioned that full disengagement may not be an immediate prospect, drawing a parallel to the Sumdorong Chu crisis of 1986 that took nine years to resolve. The slow-moving talks on the LAC — both sides are yet to schedule the next round following the eighth meeting between Corps Commanders on November 6 — raise questions about China’s willingness to both restore fully the status quo and abide by past agreements, which India must insist upon. The government, for its part, should be far more forthcoming than it has been so far on the situation on the LAC. Peace on the border is what every other aspect of the relationship with China has rested on over the past three decades, from trade to growing links in new fields such as investment and education. Transparency, without which the public will not be fully aware about the border situation and the state of the broader relationship with China, should take precedence over optics and political expediency.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 1:40:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/dangerous-impasse-the-hindu-editorial-on-india-china-border-row/article33322141.ece

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