Too close for comfort: On India-China border row

India and China must lose no time in finding a diplomatic solution to their border disputes

Updated - September 07, 2020 01:18 am IST

Published - September 07, 2020 12:02 am IST

Following Friday’s talks in Moscow between the Defence Ministers of India and China , the prospects of an imminent diplomatic solution to the continuing stand-off along the LAC do not appear bright. The statements issued by the two sides have underlined the sharp differences in how New Delhi and Beijing have continued to view the unprecedented developments along the border since May, when China deployed troops in large numbers and sought to unilaterally redraw the LAC in several areas. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh “categorically conveyed” India’s stand, emphasising that China’s actions “were in violation of the bilateral agreements”. He also expressed hope that both sides would be able to resolve the ongoing situation “peacefully through dialogue”. His Chinese counterpart, General Wei Fenghe, appeared to only reiterate the stand conveyed by China in recent statements that it had no blame to bear for this summer’s developments. He said “ the responsibility lies entirely with the Indian side ”, while China “kept maximum restraint to prevent potential escalation”. He called on India to “immediately withdraw its troops”. He did, also, add that both sides should “stay committed to resolving the issue through dialogue and consultation” and “make joint efforts to meet each other halfway”.

As External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said last week, diplomacy is the only way out of the crisis , and that can only happen “if both sides understand that it is in each of their best interests if the events of this summer are not repeated”. The problem, so far, has been a stark mismatch between China’s statements and the actions of its troops. Its consistent labelling of India as the aggressor this summer contradicts the reality that India has, since May, ceded about 1,000 square kilometres in Ladakh to Chinese control . If China’s diplomats have spoken repeatedly of the need to keep in mind “the big picture” of bilateral ties, the actions of its military on the ground have suggested an intent that is precisely the opposite, emphasising achieving tactical gains at the border over the broader strategic relationship. Until that calculus changes, India will have to be prepared to be tested along the border and to stand its ground over the long haul. India has signalled its intent to do so with the latest developments on August 29 in Chushul. If the statements following the Moscow meet did not exactly inspire confidence, both sides will have the chance to reassess the situation when Mr. Jaishankar will likely meet his counterpart, Wang Yi, at a meeting of SCO Foreign Ministers on September 10. Military talks can occasionally help to avert a flare-up, but the two neighbours need to work toward a diplomatic solution to ensure undisturbed peace and quiet along the border.

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