Ladakh standoff | Disengagement talks a work in progress, says Jaishankar

Ladakh standoff | Disengagement talks a work in progress, says Jaishankar

On China’s statements on Arunachal Pradesh and the status of Ladakh as a Union Territory, New Delhi says Beijing has “no locus standi” to comment on India’s internal matters.

India, China talks on disengagement at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) were a “work in progress”, and “confidential” at present, said External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, even as the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) asserted that the two sides now have a “better understanding” of each other’s positions.

“We had a discussion and we agreed on the importance of early disengagement,” Mr. Jaishankar observed at the online Bloomberg India Economic Forum, referring to his meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on September 10.

“Since then, there have been a series of meetings on-site, so to be speak between military commanders assisted by diplomats, which is at present a work in progress, so I can’t comment at present,” he stated.

The MEA said the disengagement process at the LAC was “complex” but gave no indicator of how long it was envisaged to be.

‘Better understanding’

Its spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, “The two sides have a better understanding of each other’s positions. Disengagement is a complex process that requires redeployment of troops by each side towards their regular posts on their respective sides of the LAC”.

The “current momentum of communications” would continue to ensure that the decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping to “not turn differences into disputes” would be followed, he added.

Despite several mechanisms for talks, including seven rounds of face-to-fact meetings of military commanders at the Chushul-Moldo points at the LAC, five rounds of the Working Mechanism for Consultation & Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC), and several conversations at the levels of the two Foreign Ministers, Defence Ministers and Special Representatives, ground reports suggest that Chinese troops have not yet pulled back from positions they had taken along the LAC in the six-month long stand-off, ensuring that Indian troops maintain their counter positions as well.

‘Five-point agreement’

The comments from Mr. Jaishankar and Mr. Srivastava came in response to specific questions being asked about whether the “five-point agreement” between the former and Mr. Wang more than a month ago still remains relevant, with concerns growing about the likelihood of heavy winter deployments in sub-zero temperatures along the LAC in Ladakh.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo estimated that China had amassed as many as 60,000 troops on its side of the boundary.

The seriousness of the situation at the border could not be minimised, Mr. Jaishankar said.

“After 45 years, we have had military casualties at the border, and there is a troop build-up which in many ways has no precedent in the recent past”, he said when asked what were the biggest foreign policy challenges for India. “For me, the real issue is whether a rising China and a rising India can find an equilibrium”.

Statements on Arunachal

Dismissing Chinese statements on Arunachal Pradesh and the status of Ladakh as a Union Territory, the MEA said that China had “no locus standi” to comment on India’s internal matters.

“We hope that countries will not comment on India’s internal matters, as much as they expect the same of others. This fact has also been clearly conveyed to the Chinese side on several occasions, including at the highest level,” Mr. Srivastava told journalists, referring to both issues, on Thursday.

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