By Amit Agnihotri
New Delhi: Locked in a bitter turf war with China along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh, India today reminded the Asian giant not to vitiate border peace if it wanted to grow bilateral relations.
The tension in the Galwan Valley has persisted since May and peaked on June 15 when 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives in a bloody brawl and around 40 Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops too suffered casualties.
Before that, on June 6, senior military officers of the two countries had chalked out a plan to de-escalate border tension but there was little progress from the Chinese side.
“We expect the Chinese side to strictly follow up on this understanding and ensure restoration of peace and tranquility in the border areas. A continuation of the current situation would only vitiate the atmosphere for the development of the relationship,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.
Post June 15 clashes, senior military officials again met on June 10 and June 22 to work out proper implementation of the de-escalation plan but India met with the same Chinese stubbornness. India’s Minister of External Affairs Dr S. Jaishankar spoke to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on June 17 and cautioned him that the Asian giant needed to maintain sanctity of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The 15th meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) was held on June 24 through video-conference where both sides agreed to disengage in eastern Ladakh but again without any progress.
While India was trying to work out peace on the border, China blamed India for the June 15 violence in Galwan Valley, alleged India violated the LAC and claimed sovereignty over the entire Galwan Valley, riling the Narendra Modi government.
“Indian troops have maintained the sanctity of the LAC and have been patrolling the Galwan Valley for long,” Srivastava said, as he pointed out that both the countries ought to respect each others’ traditional border patrols and not obstruct them.
India blamed China for aggravating the situation, saying the Asian giant violated the LAC in early May, pushed large numbers of PLA troops and armaments, pitched tents and built defence structures across the de facto border forcing India to deploy army battalions on its side as a counter balancing measure.
The deployment of such a large number of troops by the Chinese side in the first place was in contravention to a key peace agreement the two countries had signed in 1993 and which stipulated deployment of minimum levels of troops on both sides compatible with friendly relations between the two sides.
Noting there have been deviations from the agreed norms to maintain sanctity of the LAC by the Chinese side, Indian officials said a set of procedures exist to address such situations but to be implemented.
“Both sides developed patterns of patrolling but for some years we have seen obstruction of patrolling patterns by China and unilateral attempts to change the LAC. However the conduct of the Chinese forces this year is in complete disregard of the various peace pacts that exist between the two countries since 1993,” said Srivastava.
“The Indian troops are fully aware of the LAC alignments and have never violated them. All infrastructure built by India in the area is on its side of the LAC,” he said responding to the Chinese allegations.
Reiterating the June 15 violence happened after Indian troops intervened in China’s attempts to unilaterally change the LAC status quo, Indian officials said it was imperative for China to ensure sanctity of the LAC as per the established mechanisms between the two countries.
Through its strong and to the point rebuttals India today made it clear it was not in a mood to entertain false claims and expected the Chinese side to instead show some seriousness and commitment to restoring the status quo ante which practically means the positions before April.