Ladakh face-off | Chinese build-up started in May: MEA

Ladakh face-off | Chinese build-up started in May: MEA

Spokesperson says the conduct of Chinese forces at LAC has been against all mutually agreed norms

China had been “amassing” troops and armaments along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) for nearly two months, the government said on Thursday and accused the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of violating the 1993 agreement between India and China that committed both sides to “minimum levels” of deployment.

This is the first time the government has formally acknowledged the scale of the build-up along the LAC since early May, and is a departure from previous statements that attributed the tensions to a “difference in perception” of the LAC. The government also made it clear that it believes the PLA movement in the summer of 2020 has been different from past years.

“The conduct of Chinese forces this year has been in complete disregard of all mutually agreed norms,” said Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava in a media briefing.

Placing the blame for the increase in tensions and casualties on June 15 squarely on “Chinese actions”, the government called on China to restore “peace and tranquility” by implementing the June 6 disengagement plan agreed to by military commanders, as peace at the border is the “basis” of the India-China bilateral relationship.

“At the heart of the matter is that since early May, the Chinese side has been amassing a large contingent of troops and armaments along the LAC. This is not in accordance with the provisions of our various bilateral agreements, especially the key 1993 Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas,” he said.

June 15 clash

Referring to the June 15 clash in the Galwan Valley that claimed the lives of 20 Indian soldiers, he said that “resulting tension has thereafter expressed itself” after India had to undertake counter deployments along the LAC.

The MEA said that the “deployment of large body of troops and changes in behavior has also been aggravated by unjustified and untenable claims. The recent shift in the Chinese position on the Galwan Valley is one example,” referring to a series of statements made by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, claiming sovereignty over all of Galwan Valley.

“A continuation of the current situation would only vitiate the atmosphere for the development of the relationship,” he warned.

The statement by the MEA marks a perceptible shift in India’s position on the ongoing stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops along the LAC in Ladakh and in Sikkim. In statements in mid-May, Army Chief General Naravane and the MEA spokesperson said the clashes at the LAC “arise due to difference in perception of LAC”, and are managed by “local formations” according to established mechanisms. In a series of interviews, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also referred to a “sizable” presence of Chinese soldiers, but indicated that they were in areas “they claim is their territory”, disputed by India.

The MEA did not explain the reason for the turnaround in position, or why China’s “altered behaviour” was not remarked upon by the government last month. Nor did Mr. Srivastava respond to specific questions about whether Chinese troops had occupied land across the LAC, and on satellite pictures that have shown a build-up of Chinese structures and large vehicles in the Galwan Valley, Pangong Tso Finger area and Depsang plains.

“All infrastructure built by the Indian side has always been on its own side of the LAC. The Indian side has never undertaken any actions across the LAC and has never attempted to unilaterally change the status quo. However, that has not been reciprocated by the Chinese side and that from time to time has led to face-offs,” Mr. Srivastava said.

The government said it was necessary for established mechanisms to address the current situation, and called the meeting of diplomats in the Working Mechanism for Consultation & Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) on Wednesday “a significant development”, but did not confirm if further diplomatic parleys are planned as of now.

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