Restoring the Line of Actual Control ETv Bharat 08 Jul 2024 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar


Restoring the Line of Actual Control ETv Bharat 08 Jul 2024

          The Indian External Affairs Minister, Dr S Jaishankar, met his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, on the sidelines of the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, last week. There was no joint statement issued at the end of the dialogue, instead both sides gave their own versions, which was backing their own perceptions. There were hopes that the meeting would have resulted in some positive outcome as it was the first contact between the two nations since the Modi government resumed office.

          Jaishankar tweeted, ‘Discussed early resolution of remaining issues in border areas. Agreed to redouble efforts through diplomatic and military channels to that end. Respecting the LAC and ensuring peace and tranquillity in the border areas is essential. The three mutuals – mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interest – will guide our bilateral ties.’

          The MEA issued a statement which added, ‘The two Ministers agreed that the prolongation of the current situation in the border areas is not in the interest of either side. The Line of Actual Control (LAC) must be respected and peace and tranquillity in the border areas always enforced.’ There was no similarity in the statement released by the Chinese embassy in India.

          The Chinese embassy statement quoted Wang Yi as mentioning, ‘The two sides should view bilateral relations from a strategic perspective, strengthen communication and properly handle differences to ensure the sound and stable development of China-India relations. The two sides should adhere to positive thinking, properly handling and controlling the situation in the border areas, while actively resuming normal exchanges to promote each other and move forward together.’

          Projecting its anti-west stance, it added, ‘As countries of the Global South, China and India should join hands to oppose unilateral bullying, resist camp confrontation, safeguard the common interests of developing countries, and make due contributions to regional and world peace, stability and development.’ This was hinting that India must not partner the US in any move against containing China.

          Modi had also hinted towards resolving the LAC standoff in his interview with Newsweek in the run up to the elections. He had mentioned, ‘It is my belief that we need to urgently address the prolonged situation on our borders so that the abnormality in our bilateral interactions can be put behind us. I hope and believe that through positive and constructive bilateral engagement at the diplomatic and military levels, we will be able to restore and sustain peace and tranquillity in our borders.’

          The Chinese had responded by mentioning, ‘China and India are remaining in close communication through diplomatic and military channels and great positive progress has been made. China hopes that India will work in the same direction with China to properly manage the differences and take the bilateral relations forward on a healthy, stable track.’ Once again, the hint was move ahead ignoring the LAC.

          Post the re-election of PM Modi, the Chinese mouthpiece, the Global Times, published an editorial covering Indo-China relations during Modi’s third tenure. It mentioned that the LAC dispute ‘is not a recent issue, but has existed for decades.’ It pushed the Chinese perception adding, ‘in the past few years, India has taken a series of anti-China measures in domestic policies, including suppressing Chinese companies, suspending visa issuance, and vigorously suppressing people-to-people exchanges, showing a completely negative attitude.’ It blamed India for deterioration in ties.

          The message Beijing sought to convey is that while the Chinese want to normalize ties, they have no intention of reverting to pre-Apr 2020 positions, a firm insistence of India. They are sending a message that the current deployment should be considered as the new alignment of the LAC, which India refuses to accept. In response, India is hitting back diplomatically at China, while maintaining a strong presence on the LAC.  

The permitting of a US delegation to visit and also comment against Chinese president Xi Jinping in Dharamshala in their interaction with the Dalai Lama as also having an audience with the PM was a hint that India’s too will not adhere to its previous agreements with Beijing. This was followed by the PM conveying his birthday greetings to the Dalai Lama on his 89th birthday on 06 Jul. The PM only began wishing the Dalai Lama from 2021, post the commencement of the standoff, indicating a change in Indian stand.

          China objected to the US delegation visiting Dharamshala as also PM Modi greeting the Dalai Lama. It accuses the Dalai Lama of being ‘a political exile engaged in anti-China separatist activities under the cloak of religion,’ and discourages any interaction with him. It also objected to exchanges of greetings and wishes between India and Taiwan post the re-election of PM Modi.

India has also begun countering all Chinese proposals in any common grouping, in view of its disagreement with the country. PM Modi not attending the SCO meet was a message that India will not endorse any institution dominated by China. India’s relations with the SCO are anyway on the decline as the next SCO heads of state meet is scheduled in Pakistan this year and the leaders’ summit in China next year, both of which would be missed by the PM.

          There have been 21 rounds of border talks between the two militaries to no avail, apart from multiple meetings at the diplomatic level. The statements issued at the end of each are identical and meaningless. The only positive is that channels of communication are open and there have been no clashes along the LAC since the incident in Yangtze in Dec 2022. Troop densities are high, while both sides continue improving infrastructure to face future challenges.

          The basic difference between the two nations is that China is unwilling to restore deployment to pre-Apr 2020 setting, while desiring to move forward on other subjects, while India is firm that unless conditions are normal on the LAC, relations cannot move forward. India’s refusal to accept the Chinese position is that it would imply justify their ‘salami slicing’ policy. This could subsequently impact Bhutan, which also faces a similar dispute with China.

          This difference in perception will ensure that there will be an impasse in ties. However, interactions at the diplomatic and military levels will continue aiming to keep tensions in check. The message from Ladakh is that the Chinese will be unwilling to pull back in case of any future transgressions. Indian armed forces must remain alert to prevent any misadventure. India must continue countering the Chinese in every forum, while building its ties with China’s adversaries, including the US.  



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