India and China have agreed to continue military and diplomatic talks to peacefully resolve the border issue in accordance with bilateral pacts and guidance provided by leaders of the two countries, the external affairs ministry said on Sunday, sharing outcome of a high-level military dialogue on the Eastern Ladakh standoff.
Military commanders of the two armies held a marathon meeting in Maldo on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh on Saturday in an attempt to resolve the month-long standoff in the high altitude Himalayan region.
The external affairs ministry said the meeting took place in a “cordial and positive atmosphere and both sides agreed that an early resolution of the issue would contribute to the further development of the relationship between the two countries”.
“Both sides agreed to peacefully resolve the situation in the border areas in accordance with various bilateral agreements and keeping in view the agreement between the leaders that peace and tranquillity in the India-China border regions is essential for the overall development of bilateral relations,” it said in a statement.
In their historic informal summit in the Chinese city of Wuhan in 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping had underscored the importance of maintaining peace and tranquillity in all areas of the India-China border region in the interest of the development of bilateral relations.
The summit had taken place months after a 73-day military face off in Doklam that raised fears of a war between the two Asian giants.
“Both sides also noted that this year marked the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries and agreed that an early resolution would contribute to the further development of the relationship,” the MEA said about the military talks.
It said the two sides will continue the military and diplomatic engagements to resolve the situation and to ensure peace and tranquillity in the border areas.
The Indian delegation was led by Lt General Harinder Singh, the general officer commanding of Leh-based 14 Corps, while the Chinese side was headed by the Commander of the Tibet Military District Major General Liu Lin.
It is learnt that Indian delegation pressed for restoration of status quo ante in all sensitive areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) besides seeking withdrawal of additional Chinese troops from the region.
The LAC is the de-facto border.
The sources said India was not expecting any “concrete outcome” from the meeting, but considers it important as the high-level military dialogue could pave the way for a negotiated settlement of the tense standoff.
Saturday’s talks also came a day after the two countries held diplomatic talks during which both sides agreed to handle their “differences” through peaceful discussions while respecting each other’s sensitivities and concerns.
After the standoff began in early last month, the Indian military leadership decided that Indian troops will adopt a firm approach in dealing with the aggressive posturing by Chinese troops in all disputed areas of Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie.
The Chinese Army has been gradually ramping up its strategic reserves in its rear bases near the LAC by rushing in artillery guns, infantry combat vehicles and heavy military equipment, the sources said.
China has also enhanced its presence in certain areas along the Line of Actual Control in Northern Sikkim and Uttarakhand following which India has also been its presence by sending additional troops, they said.
The trigger for the face-off was China’s stiff opposition to India laying a key road in the Finger area around the Pangong Tso Lake besides construction of another road connecting the Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie road in Galwan Valley.
The road in the Finger area in Pangong Tso is considered crucial for India to carry out patrol. India has already decided not to stall any border infrastructure projects in eastern Ladakh in view of Chinese protests.
The situation in eastern Ladakh deteriorated after around 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers were engaged in a violent face-off on May 5 and 6. The incident in Pangong Tso was followed by a similar incident in north Sikkim on May 9.
The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488-km-long LAC. China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet while India contests it.
Both sides have been asserting that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, it is necessary to maintain peace and tranquillity in border areas.