Bridging ties to be in focus as diplomats meet on LAC

indian army convoy moves to ladakh

A day ahead of a crucial meeting of diplomats to review the India-China border standoff, people familiar with developments said on Thursday the focus will be on bridging differences that have led to the stalling of the disengagement and de-escalation process.

The Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs, which held its last virtual meeting on July 10, is expected to reconvene on Friday to review the disengagement process. This will be the mechanism’s fourth meeting since the border standoff emerged in the open and India and China mobilised troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

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“Both sides will look at the progress that was to have taken place in the disengagement and de-escalation process as agreed on by the leadership of both countries,” said one of the people cited above. “No one said this process will be simple. It will be complex and long-drawn.”

India and China have failed to make a breakthrough in reducing tensions in the sensitive Ladakh sector despite intense negotiations at the military and diplomatic levels, and the disengagement process at some points of the LAC has virtually halted.

No meeting between Indian and Chinese military commanders is scheduled for now and the possibility of a fifth meeting between them will be considered on the basis of the outcome of the WMCC meeting on Friday, the people said.

The scheduling of a meeting between the corps commanders will also depend on the People’s Liberation Army honouring the understanding on disengagement reached during the previous talks between the generals on July 14-15, the people added.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava told a weekly news briefing on Thursday that the Chinese side would have to cooperate for the “complete disengagement” on the disputed frontier that was agreed on by the Special Representatives for the border issue, India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and China’s foreign minister Wang Yi.

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“As we have stated earlier, the maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas is the basis of our bilateral relationship. Therefore, it is our expectation that the Chinese side will sincerely work with us for complete disengagement and de-escalation … as agreed to by Special Representatives,” he said.

Srivastava pointed out that “respecting and strictly abiding by the LAC is the basis of peace and tranquillity in the border areas” and this was reflected by several agreements signed by India and China since 1993.

Former ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, distinguished fellow at Gateway House, said there was a growing impression that de-escalation was a work in progress and would take considerable time. 

“India will need patience, perseverance, persistence and a dose of firmness….there have been contextual developments that are a good sign, such as the India-US naval exercise in Indian Ocean and the clear message emerging from the air force commanders’ conference,” he said.

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