The two Asian rivals agree to ‘disengage’ after months of heightened tensions raised the spectre of a full-fledged war.
The failure of China and India to resolve the standoff over their disputed border in the western Himalayas, despite an agreement last year, is not in the interest of either side, India’s foreign minister told his Chinese counterpart on Wednesday.
In accordance with last year’s pact, military commanders on both sides completed a pullout of troops, tanks and artillery from the Pangong Lake area in February as part of a first step towards full withdrawal from other friction points.
India’s Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar said friction in these other areas remained unresolved, however.
“[The minister] recalled that both sides had agreed that a prolongation of the existing situation was not in the interest of either side. It was visibly impacting the relationship in a negative manner,” India’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Jaishankar and China’s Wang Yi met at the sidelines of a gathering of foreign ministers from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Tajikistan on Wednesday.
Thousands of soldiers have been facing off since April 2020 on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), or the de facto border, including at the glacial Pangong Lake, raising fears of a broader conflict between the two countries.
Last month, Indian media reported that New Delhi has deployed more than 50,000 additional troops on the China border in the past few months.
At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in border clashes in June last year – the first combat losses on the disputed border in more than four decades. China later admitted four of its soldiers were also killed.
The killing of Indian soldiers caused a backlash against China, forcing New Delhi to impose curbs on Chinese businesses and investment and banning dozens of Chinese apps, including wildly popular TikTok.
But new data released earlier this week showed that bilateral trade in the first half of the year stood at $57bn, a rise of 63 percent in the same period last year, despite the chill in relations.
The two ministers agreed to seek a mutually acceptable solution to the problem and ensure stability on the ground by avoiding any unilateral action that could increase tension, the statement said.
“Concluded a one-hour bilateral meeting with State Councilor and FM Wang Yi of China on the sidelines of Dushanbe SCO Foreign Ministers Meeting. Discussions focused on the outstanding issues along the LAC in the Western Sector,” Jaishankar tweeted.
“Highlighted that unilateral change of status quo is not acceptable. Full restoration and maintenance of peace and tranquility in border areas is essential for development of our ties. Agreed on convening an early meeting of the Senior Military Commanders.”
On Wednesday, the Indian army denied reports that Chinese troops had crossed LAC in eastern Ladakh from where the rival troops had disengaged after an agreement in February.