Both sides held the other accountable and expressed intentions to preserve their sovereignty. Our territory cannot be lost, the Chinese military is fully capable; Chinese defence minister Wei told Singh.
NEW DELHI: Defence ministers of India and China who held talks to defuse tensions along their common borders on Friday seemed to have failed to make any headway on a common approach to disengage thousands of troops ranged against each other.
Statements from the Indian and Chinese delegations after the talks on Saturday showed a clear and persistent difference of views between the two sides. While China demanded that India meet it half way, India stressed that Chinese troops should withdraw to positions they held in May.
Both sides held the other responsible for the tensions that have been simmering since May and expressed their intentions to take actions to preserve their sovereignty and integrity.
The conversation between defence minister Rajnath Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe took place on the sidelines of the China and Russia dominated Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) regional grouping in Moscow at a time when the two nations are locked in a bitter deadlock in eastern Ladakh for almost four months.
This is the first face-to-face correspondence at a political level in an attempt to break an impasse in dialogue between military commanders and diplomats on disengagement and de-escalation.
An Indian statement said that Singh and Wei had “frank and in-depth discussions" about the developments in the India-China border areas as well as on Sino-Indian relations.
Singh “emphasized that the actions of the Chinese troops, including amassing of in large numbers, their aggressive behaviour and attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo were in violation of the bilateral agreements and not in keeping with the understandings reached between the special representatives of two sides," the Indian statement said.
Singh stated “clearly that while the Indian troops had always taken a very responsible approach towards border management, but at the same time there should be no doubt about our determination to protect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Wei, who is state councillor and China's defence minister, said that “both sides should scrupulously implement the consensus reached between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping and continue to solve the issues through dialogue and consultation, strictly follow the various bilateral agreements, strengthen the regulation of frontline troops and not undertake any provocative actions that might escalate the situation," the Indian statement said.
“The two sides should focus on the overall situation of India-China relations and work together to de-escalate the situation as soon as possible, and maintain peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas. The Chinese defence minister suggested that both sides should maintain communication at all levels including between the two ministers," according to the Indian statement.
Singh underlined India’s position that maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas was essential for the further development of bilateral relations and that two sides should not allow differences to become disputes.
“Accordingly, the two sides should resolve the ongoing situation and outstanding issues in the border areas peacefully through dialogue. The Chinese defence minister conveyed that Chinese side too desired to resolve the issues peacefully," the Indian statement said.
Singh also “advised that it was important therefore that Chinese side should work with the Indian side for complete disengagement at the earliest from all friction areas including Pangong lake as well as de-escalation in border areas...strictly respect and observe the line of actual control and not try to unilaterally change status quo.“ the statement said.
Singh added that the “current situation should be handled responsibly and that neither side should take any further action that could either complicate the situation or escalate matters in the border areas. The minister conveyed that the two sides should continue their discussions, including through diplomatic and military channels, to ensure complete disengagement and de-escalation and full restoration of peace and tranquillity along the LAC at the earliest," it added.
As per a Chinese statement, Wei said that the Chinese military has determination, capability and confidence to safeguard China's territorial integrity. “Wei Fenghe said that the relations between the two countries and the militaries have been severely affected by the border issue," a statement posted on the Chinese defence ministry website said.
“The cause and truth of the current tension on the border between China and India are very clear, and the responsibility lies entirely with India. China’s territory cannot be lost, and the Chinese military is fully determined, capable, and confident to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Both sides should earnestly implement the important consensus reached by Chairman Jinping and Prime Minister Modi and insist on solving problems through dialogue and consultation," it said of the Singh-Wei meeting.
The Chinese statement may be seen as suggesting that China will not step back from places it has intruded into on the banks of the Pangong Tso lake and around Patrolling Point 17. If so, it suggests that the positions of the two countries remains far apart with no convergence, given that India has been demanding that China vacate the positions it had intruded into.
“It is hoped that the Indian side will strictly abide by the series of agreements reached by the two sides, effectively strengthen the control of the frontline forces, refrain from provoking the current line of actual control, refraining from any actions that may cause the situation to heat up, and from deliberately hyping and spreading negative information. The two sides should focus on the overall situation of Sino-Indian relations and regional peace and stability, work together and meet each other halfway, to promote the current situation to cool down as soon as possible, and to maintain peace and tranquility in the Sino-Indian border area," it said mirroring comments made multiple times by the Chinese ambassador to India Sun Weidong to different audiences in New Delhi.
The talks that started at 9:30 pm India time on Friday continued for two hours and twenty minutes, according to a person familiar with the matter on the Indian side.