Addressing the weekly media briefing on Friday, 5 March, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said that the disengagement with Chinese troops in the Pangong Lake area was a significant step forward, and that it was not in the interests of either sides to prolong the issue.
“Senior commanders in the last meeting on 25 Feb had noted that the disengagement in the Pangong lake area was a significant step forward and provided a good basis for the resolution of other remaining issues along the LAC in the Western sector”, said Srivastava, adding that the two sides had a detailed exchange of views at the last meeting.
Srivastava referred to India's External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar’s conversation with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi last week, where the former, while noting the completion of disengagement in the Pangong Lake area, had stressed on the need for both sides to quickly resolve the remaining issues along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh.
“As EAM had pointed out to the Chinese foreign minister, both sides have always agreed that the maintenance of peace and tranquility in the border area was an essential basis for the development of bilateral relations. The prolongation of the existing situation was not in the interest of either side,” he said.
Shrivastava added that both sides have agreed to remain in touch and to set up a hotline, details of which will be worked out through subsequent diplomatic channels.
“It is therefore our expectation that the Chinese side will work with us both through the WMCC (Working Mechanism for Consultation and Cooperation on India-China border issues) and the senior commanders’ meetings to ensure that the disengagement in the remaining area is completed at the earliest”, said Shrivastava.
“This would allow both sides to consider de-escalation of forces in eastern Ladakh as that alone will lead to the restoration of peace and tranquillity and provide conditions for the progress in our bilateral relationship,” he added.
PHONE CALL BETWEEN JAISHANKAR AND YI
Jaishankar had a conversation over the phone for 75 minutes with China's State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on 25 February, with the two discussing the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh as well as issues related to the overall India-China relations.
Issuing a statement on the conversation, the Ministry of External Affairs said, "The EAM referred to the meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister in September 2020 in Moscow where Indian side had expressed its concern on provocative behaviour and unilateral attempts of Chinese side to alter status quo."
"He noted that the bilateral relations have been impacted severely over the last year. EAM said that the boundary question may take time to resolve, but disturbance of peace and tranquility, including by violence, will inevitably have a damaging impact on the relationship," the ministry added.
“The EAM said that once disengagement is completed at all friction points, then the two sides could also look at broader de-escalation of troops in the area and work towards the restoration of peace and tranquility.”
WHAT HAS HAPPENED SO FAR?
India and China have been engaged in diplomatic and military talks after tensions began rising along the high-altitude border in April 2020. The situation escalated when 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a physical clash in mid-June at Galwan Valley in Ladakh.
Earlier in February, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had told the Parliament that both sides had agreed to pull back troops in “a phased, coordinated and verified manner” around Pangong Tso, after which military commanders would discuss ending the standoff in other parts of Ladakh.
The tenth round of disengagement talks between India and China, which were held on 20 February, had lasted around 16 hours, following which the Ministry of Defence said that the two sides “positively appraised the smooth completion of disengagement of frontline troops in the Pangong Lake area”.
Further, according to the Defence Ministry, the two sides noted that it was a significant step forward that provided “a good basis for resolution of other remaining issues along the LAC in Western Sector.”
As per images and videos accessed by The Quint via Indian Army sources, the Indian and Chinese troops were seen moving away tanks, dismantling structures and deinducting troops from the sites, as was agreed upon in the ninth round of military commander level talks.