India and China on Friday held another round of diplomatic talks on the standoff in Ladakh sector of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) after a gap of more than two months though there were no indications of an immediate breakthrough.
The virtual meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs was co-chaired by Naveen Srivastava, joint secretary (East Asia) of the external affairs ministry, and Hong Liang, director general of the department of boundary and oceanic affairs of China’s foreign ministry.
The last meeting of WMCC held on September 30 too had failed to take forward the process of disengagement and de-escalation along the LAC.
The external affairs ministry said in a statement that the two sides reviewed developments on the LAC since the last meeting of WMCC and agreed to “continue to work towards ensuring complete disengagement in all friction points along the LAC in the Western Sector at the earliest”, in line with the guidance from senior leaders and agreements reached by the two foreign ministers and Special Representatives on the boundary issue.
The two sides also noted the seventh and eighth round of meetings between senior army commanders held on October 12 and November 6 had held in-depth discussions that had “contributed to ensuring stability on the ground”.
“Both sides agreed to maintain close consultations at the diplomatic and military level. They agreed that the next (9th) round of Senior Commanders meeting should be held at an early date so that both sides can work towards early and complete disengagement of troops along the LAC in accordance with the existing bilateral agreements and protocols, and fully restore peace and tranquillity,” the statement said.
A readout from the Chinese embassy said the two sides had a “candid and in-depth exchange of views on the situation” along the LAC and agreed to continue dialogue and consultation via diplomatic and military channels. The readout added the two sides had decided to hold the 9th meeting of senior army commanders “as soon as possible”.
The Chinese embassy’s readout further said the two sides had “agreed to earnestly implement the five-point consensus reached between the foreign ministers of both countries” when they met in Moscow on the margins of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting in September.
Friday’s meeting also “focused on the disengagement of frontline troops” and “concrete measures to deal with the issues on the ground to further deescalate the border situation”, the readout said.
The two sides “spoke highly of the outcomes of the 8th round of Senior Commanders Meeting” and also agreed to “properly deal with the outstanding issues on the ground, and jointly maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas”, the readout added.
Tens of thousands of troops from both sides have dug in along the LAC in sub-zero conditions after several rounds of diplomatic and military talks failed to take forward the disengagement process at key friction points in Ladakh sector.
People familiar with developments in Beijing said the focus of Friday’s negotiations was on troop disengagement.
The WMCC meeting was held on the same day that China’s foreign minister Wang Yi is scheduled to address an online event organised by Mumbai-based Asia Society Indian Centre. Wang is expected to talk on the crisis in Sino-India ties triggered by the eight-month standoff.
Between September 30 and now, the two sides held military talks, which too failed to take the disengagement process forward.
India on Thursday had called for further discussions with China to reach a “mutually acceptable solution” on complete disengagement at all friction points on the LAC.
“It is our expectation that further discussions will help both sides to achieve an agreement on a mutually acceptable solution for ensuring complete disengagement in all friction points along the LAC in the Western sector and full restoration of peace and tranquillity as early as possible,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava told a weekly news briefing.
At the end of the last virtual WMCC meet on September 30, both an Indian statement and a readout from China’s foreign ministry had said the two sides “positively evaluated” the outcome of the sixth military commanders’ meeting on September 21.
Army commanders of the two sides last held military talks on November 6, an indication that neither side is willing to budge from their respective positions.