SUB-HEADING ON HUANQIU.COM : PEOPLE FAMILIAR WITH THE MATTER: CHOOSING THIS TIME TO COMMUNICATE IS AN IMPORTANT SIGNAL
State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke on the phone with Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar on the 25th. The Indian Foreign Ministry issued a press release on the call on the 26th, saying that the two Foreign Ministers spoke for about 75 minutes and discussed the situation on the Line of Actual Control in the “Ladakh region” and issues related to India-China relations. Some media reports said that this is the second time Wang Yi spoke with S. Jaishankar on the phone after five months since the border conflict between India and China broke out in May last year.
During the call, Wang stressed that the rights and wrongs of last year’s developments on the Sino-Indian border are very clear, and the lessons of the past should be learned deeply. Recently, India’s policy towards China has swung backwards, and practical cooperation between the two countries has been affected and disturbed, which is not in the interests of either side. Experience over the past decades has repeatedly shown that highlighting differences does not help solve problems and erodes the foundation of mutual trust. Wang Yi said that recently the disengagement of Chinese and Indian frontline troops was completed in the Pangong Lake area, and the situation on the ground has clearly eased. Both sides must cherish the current hard-won situation, work together to consolidate the achievements made, maintain the momentum of consultations, further de-escalate the situation, improve the border management and control mechanism, promote the border negotiation process, and continue to cumulatively create and enhance mutual trust to achieve peace and tranquility in the border area.
Indian Ministry of External Affairs issued a press release on 26, according to which S. Jaishankar mentioned that bilateral relations have been seriously affected in the past year. “While the resolution of the border issue may be time-consuming and laborious, acts that undermine peace and tranquility in the border region, including violence, will inevitably cause damage to bilateral relations”. He said he had taken note of the completion of disengagement between the two armies in the Pangong Lake area and stressed that the two sides should resolve remaining outstanding issues along the Line of Actual Control in the “Eastern part of Ladakh” as soon as possible.
The two Foreign Ministers also agreed to maintain contact and establish a communication hotline during the call. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular press conference on 26 June that the two sides would hold discussions on the issue.
An anonymous source in India told the Huan Qiu Shi Bao on 26th that the fact that the Indian and Chinese Foreign Ministers chose to talk at this time sends an important signal about their moving forward to the next steps. He said that after the completion of the disengagement between India and China on the northern and southern banks of Pangong Lake, the two sides held the tenth round of army commanders-level talks immediately and agreed to submit the next stage of the disengagement plan to their respective decision-making levels, indicating that this round of border confrontation is near the end. In this context, the call between the Indian and Chinese Foreign Ministers is a political continuation of their meeting in Moscow in September last and a demonstration of the efforts and determination of both sides to restore peace and tranquility in the border region and rebuild mutual trust in bilateral relations. He believes that although India and China still have differences on the border issue, they both uphold the consensus of “not allowing differences to escalate into disputes”, which is the basis and key to the continued development of relations between the two countries.
The Times of India reported on the 25th that Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Srivastava said at a regular press conference on the same day that India has never reached agreements for disengagement with China in “eastern Ladakh” at the cost of Indian territory and did not respond on misinterpretation of deployment of troops of both sides. He also claimed that India had acted to block the “attempt” of China to unilaterally change the status quo on the Line of Actual Control and that India’s position on the matter had not changed. Ironically, India Today quoted sources as having said on the 25th that at a meeting chaired by National Security Adviser Doval in August last year, occupation of strategic high ground on the southern bank of Lake Pangong was “suggested” as a “game-changer”. The idea was to “bring the Chinese to the negotiating table and resolve the northern border crisis”.
At the same time, some in India “marveling” at the speed of Chinese infrastructure construction in the border region, highlighted the “Chinese threat”. According to the Hindustan Times, Indian National Security and defense officials are concerned that Chinese troops are rapidly upgrading infrastructure in Sikkim and “Arunachal Pradesh” (our “southern Tibetan region”). There is “evidence” of an increase in Chinese troops and equipment and better road connectivity in the Nakula region of northern Sikkim. Indian diplomatic and security officials believe that although a cautious dialogue between senior Indian and Chinese officials is underway, India has to develop a strategy to deal with a China that is both “aggressive” and friendly, and must not let its guard down.