Sino-India disengagement statement follows Ajit Doval’s Sunday call to Wang Yi

Sino-India disengagement statement follows Ajit Doval’s Sunday call to Wang Yi

NSA Ajit Doval and State Councillor Wang Yi, as Special Representatives, last met in December 2019

The disengagement between India and China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) announced on Monday came after a long and detailed conversation between National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval and Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi on Sunday evening.

The high-level political intervention is significant, because Mr. Doval and Mr. Wang are both Special Representatives on the boundary talks, and had last met in December 2019. Mr. Wang is both Foreign Minister and State Councillor, a position which is roughly the equivalent of an NSA.

For the past few weeks, through the crisis, Mr. Doval had been monitoring the situation from home despite the fact that he had chosen to self-quarantine after two family members contracted the Coronavirus. Sources said that Mr. Doval rejoined work at his office on Saturday, a day before the call with Mr. Wang.

Statements on the call issued by India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) both emphasised an agreement to push for an early disengagement, yet differences remained on some issues that point to uncertainties that may lie ahead.

On the disengagement, the MEA said both agreed they “should complete the ongoing disengagement process along the LAC expeditiously” and “ensure a phased and stepwise de-escalation in the India-China border areas”.

The statement said both “should strictly respect and observe the LAC and should not take any unilateral action to alter the status quo and work together to avoid any incident in the future that could disturb peace and tranquillity in border areas.”

No mention of LAC

China’s statement did not mention the LAC, let alone respecting it. The statement said both sides “welcomed the progress achieved in the recent military and diplomatic meetings, agreed to stay in dialogue and consultation, and stressed the importance to promptly act on the consensus reached in the commander-level talks between Chinese and Indian border troops, and complete [the] disengagement of the front-line troops as soon as possible.”

The MEA statement did not mention the cause of the recent tensions, which India said on June 25 was because “the conduct of Chinese forces this year has been in complete disregard of all mutually agreed norms” and they had also crossed the LAC and erected structures on India’s side, in the Galwan Valley.

The statement did not mention the Galwan Valley either, but China did. “The right and wrong of what recently happened at the Galwan Valley in the western sector of the China-India boundary is very clear,” the Chinese statement said, adding that “China will continue firmly safeguarding our territorial sovereignty as well as peace and tranquility in the border areas.”

Differing perspectives

Both presented differing perspectives of the broader strategic relationship. The MEA said the SRs agreed “both sides should take guidance from the consensus of the leaders that maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas was essential for the further development of our bilateral relations and that two sides should not allow differences to become disputes.” “Therefore, they agreed that it was necessary to ensure at the earliest complete disengagement of the troops along the LAC and de-escalation from India-China border areas for full restoration of peace and tranquillity,” its statement said.

The Chinese statement emphasised the difficulties in the relationship, calling on both to “adhere to the strategic assessment that instead of posing threats the two countries provide each other with development opportunities” and to “pay great attention to the current complex situation facing China-India bilateral relations, and work together to overcome and turn it around as soon as possible.”

“We hope India can work with China to guide public opinion in the right direction, keep and advance bilateral exchanges and cooperation, and avoid amplifying the differences and complicating matters so as to jointly uphold the big picture of China-India relations,” it said.

Where both were in agreement was to keep the channels open at the highest levels. The MEA said the SRs agreed to “continue their conversations to ensure full and enduring restoration of peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas in accordance with the bilateral agreements and protocols.” The Chinese side said both agreed “to strengthen communication through the mechanism of the SRs’ meeting, hold Meetings of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on China-India Border Affairs without interruption, consistently improve and strengthen confidence-building measures and prevent more incidents that undermine peace and tranquility in the border areas.”

While the news of the move to disengage was “positive”, former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran cautioned there was need to “wait and see how this translates on the ground.”

“I see that in the Chinese statement there is a reaffirmation of its position on Galwan with a commitment to safeguard what China consider its territorial claim,” he told The Hindu. “While tensions may subside but the relationship will never be the same again.”

Your email address will not be published.