By Amit Agnihotri
New Delhi: On a day India said it was trying to de-escalate border tension with China in eastern Ladakh, the Asian giant added fuel to fire by repeating its claims over the Galwan Valley, the site of the June 25 bloody brawl in which 20 Indian Army soldiers died and around 40 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troopers were reported to be casualties.
A statement put out by India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the fifteenth meeting of the ‘Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs‘ (WMCC) was held today through video-conference.
The Indian delegation was led by MEA Joint Secretary (East Asia) Naveen Srivastava, while Director General of the Department of Boundary and Oceanic Affairs of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hong Liang led the Chinese delegation.
The two sides discussed in detail the India-China border with a particular focus on the Galwan Valley violence on June 15, which erupted after the PLA violated the Line of Actual Control (LAC) by pushing troops, pitching tents and building defence structures on the Indian side.
At the WMCC meeting today, India recalled the June 17 conversation between Indian Minister of External Affairs Dr S. Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, and emphasised that both the sides should strictly respect and observe the sanctity of the LAC.
The consensus to de-escalate border tension and disengage reached between the senior military personnel of the two countries on June 6 and June 22 was flagged by the Indian delegation.
The positive outcome was the Chinese side too agreed to implement that June 22 understanding expeditiously, in accordance with the bilateral agreements and protocols, to ensure peace and tranquillity along the border and help develop the broader India-China relationship.
The two sides agreed to keep communication lines, both at diplomatic and military level including under the framework of WMCC, open to resolve the existing situation peacefully. Media reports cited the Chinese defence and foreign affairs ministries blaming India again for the June 15 clashes and reiterating their claims over the Galwan Valley.
“During the first Commanders’ meeting on June 6, the Indian side committed no trespassing of the Galwan Valley for patrol and for building,” the Hindustan Times quoted Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian said.
“The two sides agreed to set up observatory posts at the two sides of the Galwan river estuary, but the Indian side went against these agreements and asked China to dismantle China’s posts and also it crossed the Line to provoke which led to the clash,” Zhao said.
“Early morning on May 6, India’s border troops under the guise of darkness, trespassed into China’s territory and provoked the incident. China’s troops had to take necessary measures to strengthen their response and their management of the border areas,” he said.
“Secondly, it is the Indian side that went against bilateral agreement and provoked first. Because of our diplomatic and military representations, the Indian side at first agreed to withdraw personnel from Galwan Valley and so it did, and it dismantled its facilities as requested by the Chinese side,” Zhao said.
China’s Defence Ministry spokesperson People’s Liberation Army Senior Colonel Wu Qian repeated Beijing’s claim that “it has sovereignty over the Galwan Valley region,” The Hindu reported. “Over the years, the Chinese border troops have been patrolling and guarding this region,” it quoted Wu.
The Chinese government’s remarks surprisingly came a day after senior army commanders from the two sides reportedly agreed to a plan to disengage in the eastern parts of Indian Union Territory of Ladakh.