NEW DELHI: Beijing on Monday said talks with India on resolving tensions along their common border had resulted in agreement that differences between the two sides should not be allowed to escalate into disputes.
Essentially, the Chinese statement echoed India's comments released on Sunday.
The good news was that the two have decided to continue with quiet diplomacy, away from the public domain. The bad news - talks are likely to be protracted, with India unwilling to compromise on its key demands.
“Recently, through diplomatic and military channels, the two sides have maintained close communication on the situation along the border," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying told reporters in Beijing, according to news reports. The reference was to talks on Saturday between Lieutentant General Harinder Singh, head of the Leh-based 14 Corps of the Indian Army, and Major General Liu Lin, commander of the South Xinjiang military region, at Moldo on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
“One consensus (reached on Saturday) is that the two sides need to implement the two leaders’ consensus and make sure that the differences do not escalate into disputes. And, the two sides will work to maintain peace and tranquility along the border and create a good atmosphere," she said. “So, the situation overall is stable and controllable and the two sides are ready to engage in consultation to properly solve the relevant issues," Hua added.
The trigger for the current face-off has been China’s stiff opposition to India laying a key road around the Pangong Tso Lake besides construction of another link road connecting the Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie road in the Galwan Valley. China has deployed a large number of troops in Pangong Tso and Galwan Valley besides gradually building temporary infrastructure and amassing weaponry. The Chinese Army has also brought in reinforcements near the LAC including artillery guns, infantry combat vehicles and heavy military equipment.
According to a person familiar with the pattern of India-China engagement, the statement from the Chinese side was similar in tone to the Indian foreign ministry which is a "good" development. But this does not mean that tensions on the border would be resolved in a hurry, the person cited above added.
India will stand firm on its demand that Chinese troops withdraw from areas considered Indian territory ie restoration of "status quo ante." In other words, China would need to withdraw its troops to positions they were in prior to 5 May. Galwan valley for example had never been a point of dispute before, with China acknowledging that it was Indian territory. But this time though, it had become a matter of contention. India would also not give up on infrastructure construction along its borders with China. New Delhi would also insist that China adhere to the provisions of a clutch of bilateral pacts signed between 1993 and 2013 that lay down ground rules for the movement of troops, heavy vehicles and aircraft near the border.
According to another person familiar with developments, the coming days would see more engagement at the level of brigade commanders. There would also be more talks between Indian and Chinese diplomats at the “Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on India-China Border Affairs.
“A strong military posture along with diplomacy will resolve the current border standoff," said Gautam Bambawale, India’s former ambassador to China, Pakistan and Bhutan. “Diplomacy will follow two tracks - the military diplomacy track on the border and the Working Mechanism track between Delhi and Beijing. It may take some time but I am confident that the situation will be de-escalated," he said.