By N. C. Bipindra
New Delhi: For the first time since the June 15 military clash with China in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh that left soldiers dead on either side, India today sent out a very strong signal to its northern neighbour that “any unilateral change” in the status quo of the de facto border would be “unacceptable”.
There were two separate statements that came from the Indian Army and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), both having the sting required to make the People’s Republic of China to sit and take notice.
“The two sides remain committed to the objective of complete disengagement. This process is intricate and requires constant verification. They are taking it forward through regular meetings at diplomatic and military level,” Indian Army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand said.
The Army and the MEA statements also sounded ominous that all was not well in the 15-hour marathon talks that the military commanders from the two sides had on July 14 that extended till July 15 early hours.
But there was one positive messaging from the Indian Army: That the two sides remain committed to the objective of complete disengagement and full restoration of peace and tranquility in the India-China border areas. But that wasn’t to bring solace to the peaceniks, who want to see the over two months of military conflict between India and China to end quickly, and peace and tranquility returning to the 4,050-km Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The Indian Army and the MEA statements said the two nations were engaged in discussions through established military and diplomatic channels to address the prevailing situation along the LAC and the commanders from the two armies had met at Chushul on the Indian side for the fourth round of talks.
The disengagement process currently underway in the western sector is specifically aimed at addressing face-off situations and close-up deployments of troops along the LAC, the MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.
“It is based on an understanding between senior military commanders. Both sides have agreed at specific points to re-deploy towards their regular posts on their respective sides of the LAC,” Srivastava said in his statement.
“These are mutually agreed reciprocal actions to be taken by both sides. And as I have already conveyed, it is an ongoing process. This mutual re-deployment should not be misrepresented. There is absolutely no change with respect to India’s position on the Line of Actual Control. We are fully committed to observing and respecting the LAC. Any unilateral attempts to change the status quo along the LAC are not acceptable.”
The Indian Army and the MEA said the discussion was consistent with the consensus reached between the Special Representatives of India and China on the boundary question — India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and State Councillor Wang Yi — over the phone on July 5 to discuss complete disengagement. A meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) was also held on July 10.
“In these meetings, the two sides have agreed on complete disengagement of the troops along the LAC and de-escalation from India-China border areas for full restoration of peace and tranquility in the border areas in accordance with bilateral agreements and protocols.
“The senior commanders reviewed the progress on implementation of the first phase of disengagement and discussed further steps to ensure complete disengagement. The two sides will continue their diplomatic and military engagements to achieve these outcomes,” Srivastava said.
According Indian government officials, the China Study Group of the Indian government, headed by Ajit Doval, had met last evening to discuss the outcome of the fourth round of military commanders’ talks and reviewed the progress made in the three-stage process of disengagement, de-escalation and de-induction (or de-mobilisation) that had been agreed upon in the previous three rounds of talks held on June 6, June 22 and June 30.
The Indian Army and MEA statements came 35 hours and 40 hours respectively after the military commanders’ talks got over on July 15th at 2 am. The commanders’ meeting had begun on July 14 at 11 am.
The reason for India’s strong signalling, according to Indian officials who did not wish to be identified citing rules, was that the Chinese were showing very little progress in their disengagement and de-escalation activities at the Finger 4 ridge top in the northern banks of Pongong Tso, a boomerang-shaped lake in eastern Ladakh, one-third of which is controlled by India and the rest two-thirds by China.
The Indian side had also communicated to their Chinese counterparts that the current mobilisation of troopers, tanks, artillery guns, air defence weapons and other military paraphernalia at Depsang Plains need to be de-inducted from close to the LAC and status quo ante of defensive deployments should be restored.
“These would be the toughest negotiations till date on LAC, as more rounds of talks would be required. The military diplomacy part may continue, but more can be achieved through diplomatic talks by senior Indian and Chinese foreign affairs leadership,” the officials said.