India-China standoff

On Friday the National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval held a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the months-long standoff with China and the situation at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh. A day before External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, met at Moscow alongside the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit where the two sides reached an agreement to resolve the border crisis. An important decision taken was that military talks between India and China will focus on distancing the troops of both countries that are currently stationed too close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

These meetings come at a time when relations between the two countries have degenerated to an all time low. Earlier this week Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh too held talks with his Chinese counterpart on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Moscow. The massive stand-off between India and China started early in May this year even as both countries are dealing with the pandemic and the situation in India is worsening. On June 15, the two sides had a violent face-off in the Galwan Valley where 20 Indian soldiers, including a Colonel-rank officer, were killed in the clash. As usual, China has not disclosed its losses in this showdown. Since then India and China have held several rounds of military talks to resolve the border crisis but a solution does not seem to be in the offing.

Even at the Thursday meeting the five-point roadmap reached by S Jaishankar and Chinese minister Wang Yi, failed to mention that ‘status quo ante’, is to be maintained. This implies restoration of the LAC to its previous state in April before the violent face-off between the troop of both countries. While India is very clear that it would not countenance any attempt to change the status quo unilaterally it failed to bring the issue for restoration of status quo, which has been a demand throughout the conflict to the fore.

While both India and China have decided to not allow “differences” to become “disputes”, the two sides have also not moved from their earlier position on the ground situation. India continues to maintain the need to restore the status quo ante and a comprehensive disengagement of troops in all the friction areas. This is imperative to prevent further escalation of hostilities in future. But there persists a difference of perception between the two countries. The Chinese believe that India-China relations do not hinge on the settlement of the boundary question. This is where India needs to do some plain speaking.

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