India and China will take up remaining issues along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) once the ongoing disengagement at Patrolling Point (PP) 15 in Gogra-Hot Springs is completed by Monday, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Friday.
Beijing welcomed the disengagement at PP15 as “a positive development”, but reiterated its stand that it would not accept India’s demand to restore the status quo prior to China’s transgressions, saying “the status quo of April 2020…was created by India’s illegal crossing of the Line of Actual Control [LAC]”.
“China will by no means accept that,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters when asked if the latest disengagement would pave the way to full restoration of the status quo. “We don’t accept the so-called status quo created by India’s illegal crossing of the LAC, but that doesn’t mean we don’t attach importance to peace and tranquillity along the border…..China and India hold different positions on the border issues. But what is most important now is for both sides to keep up communication and dialogue, make the disengagement a first step and ensure peace and tranquillity along the border. The beginning of disengagement is a positive development.”
Beijing’s comments suggested difficulties may still lie ahead for both sides as they look to resolve differences in the remaining friction areas in Demchok and Depsang. Only after full disengagement and subsequent de-escalation of the more than 50,000 troops on each side that remain deployed in forward areas, India has made clear, can relations return to normalcy.
India and China have completed disengagement in five other areas — PP15 being the latest — creating buffer zones in Galwan Valley, north and south of Pangong Lake, and in PP17A in Hot Springs.
The timing of the announcement on PP15 did, however, also suggest both sides appeared to be looking to create conditions that might enable a first meeting between their leaders after close to three years.
SCO summit next week
The MEA statement said disengagement at PP15 would be completed by September 12 — three days before the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping would likely attend in Samarkand, convenes. Neither side has commented on whether the two leaders, who haven’t spoken since a November 2019 meeting in Brasilia or during the more than two-year-long LAC crisis, will meet on the sidelines at the SCO or at the G20 in Indonesia in November.
As per Thursday’s agreement, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the disengagement process in the area started on Thursday at 8.30 a.m. IST and would be completed by Monday.