Breakthrough in India – China Border Row

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    Shantanu Mukharji

    In a major diplomatic triumph for India, the Special Representatives of India and China on the Boundary Question – Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor of India and Wang Yi, State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs of China had a telephone conversation on the 5th July 2020. The two Special Representatives had a frank and in-depth exchange of views on the recent developments in the Western Sector of the India-China border areas which had heightened the tension and was threatening peace in the region as there were casualties on both the sides.

    During the telephonic chat, the  two Special Representatives agreed that both sides should take guidance from the consensus of the leaders that maintenance of peace and tranquility in the India-China border areas was essential for the further development of their bilateral relations and that two sides should not allow differences to become disputes. In the light of this, they agreed that it was necessary to ensure at the earliest to complete the process of disengagement of troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and de-escalation from India-China border areas for full restoration of peace and tranquility. They further agreed that the two sides should also ensure a phased and stepwise de-escalation in the India-China border areas. They also re-affirmed that both sides should strictly respect and observe the LAC and should not take any unilateral action to alter the status quo and instead work together to avoid any incident in the future that could disturb peace and tranquility in border areas.

    Also, the two Special Representatives agreed that the diplomatic and military officials of the two sides should continue their discussions, including under the framework of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China border affairs (WMCC), and implement the understandings reached in a timely manner to achieve the above outcomes. It was also agreed that the two Special Representatives will continue their conversations to ensure full and enduring restoration of peace and tranquility in the India-China border areas in accordance with the bilateral agreements and protocols.

    On his part, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that this year is the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and India. China-India relations have withstood the test of ups and downs, and it is not easy to achieve today’s development. Not long ago, what happened in the Western part of the border between China and India in the Galwan Valley is very clear. China will continue to effectively defend its territorial sovereignty and the border area and peace. Wang Yi emphasized that the realization of development and revitalization is the first priority of China and India, and China and India share long-term common strategic interests in this general direction. The two sides should always adhere to strategic judgments that do not pose threats to each other and provide opportunities for development, attach great importance to the complex situation facing the current relationship between the two countries, and work together to overcome and reverse them as soon as possible. It is hoped that India and China will act in the same direction, correctly guide public opinion and maintain and promote normal exchanges and cooperation between the two countries, avoid adopting practices that expand and complicate disputes, and jointly safeguard the overall situation of China-India relations. Further, the two sides exchanged frank and in-depth views on easing the current state of affairs between the two countries’ borders and reached a positive consensus.

    Both India and China agreed to follow the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries and believe that maintaining peace and tranquility in the border area is crucial to the long-term development of bilateral relations. The border issue should be placed in an appropriate position in bilateral relations to avoid the rise of differences into disputes. The two sides reaffirmed their observance of a series of agreements signed by the two countries on the border issue and worked together to ease the situation in the border areas.

    Both the countries agreed to strengthen communication through the special representative meeting mechanism, hold non-stop meetings on the China-India Border Affairs Consultation and Coordination Working Mechanism, and constantly improve and strengthen confidence-building measures in the border area to avoid recurring incidents that affect peace and tranquility in the border area.

    Significantly, the two sides welcomed  the progress made in the recent military and diplomatic meeting between the two countries and agreed to continue the dialogue and consultations, and emphasised that the consensus reached at the level of the two border defense forces at the military level should be implemented as quickly as possible.

    It’s really a cornerstone in the field of diplomacy that the situation which looked impossible to ease, was solved sooner than later coincidentally soon after Prime Minister Modi visited the border in Ladakh and met the troops to keep up their morale. Now, what might have happened behind the scene to break this impasse? Many reasons are being attributed but most of the analysts reckon that China thought India was really serious this time to take on its adversary both militarily and diplomatically. China was losing its goodwill and international pressure was mounting on it to withdraw its troops and de-escalate. The US too flexed its muscles and sent two Warships in close proximity of China’s territorial waters. This signal was perhaps enough. Further, countries like Australia and Japan took an anti China and pro India stance which meant to isolate China further.

    China is already under severe international pressure for its most negative role in handling the ongoing crisis in Hong Kong and oppressive policies towards the Uighur Muslims in its Xinjiang region. India’s resolve in not ruling out a military option to deal with the Chinese was loud and clear to the Chinese who thought discretion being better part of the valour also thought that it would be prudent to have an honourable solution.

    From India’s side, its National Security Advisor, AK Doval played a pivotal role in putting in enormous labour and skilful diplomacy to convince the Chinese about the necessity of good sense to prevail to end the stalemate. He had the experience of ending the Doklam stand-off of 2017. The robust yet mature diplomacy paid off and the results are now evident. This said, there is no reason for any complacency or jingoism. These gains, obtained by the two sides, must be consolidated for richer strategic dividends in the long run. For now, however, peace looks visible on the horizon and under no circumstances, it should be allowed to evaporate.

    (Writer is a security analyst and a columnist on topical issues. Views expressed are personal.)

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