A sense of impasse seems to have set in into the process to reduce border tensions between India and China with no word on meetings in the coming days either at the military or diplomatic levels.
The development comes as opposition against China’s aggressive policies towards its neighbours grew stronger over the weekend with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations demanding that Beijing settle a dispute over the South China Sea through the provisions of a 1982 international treaty.
While some Indian government officials were tightlipped on whether talks to reduce tensions along their border would happen this coming week, others indicated that there was “no dialogue scheduled in the coming days."This follows military and diplomatic level dialogue between the two countries last week. On 22 June, senior military commanders of the two countries met on the Chinese side of the Line of actual control
The expectation was that the 22 June talks between Lt General Harinder Singh, who heads the Leh-based 14 Corps of the Indian army and Major General Liu Lin, commander of the South Xinjiang Military District, would lead to further discussions on the reduction of tensions and the disengagement of troops. This was after people familiar with the development on the Indian side said the two commanders had arrived at a “mutual consensus to disengage" their forces facing off against each other in Ladakh. A previous round of talks between Singh and Liu on 6 June had resulted in discussions at the level of major generals, brigadiers and colonels. But that dialogue on de-escalation and disengagement was interrupted by a brutal clash on 15 June in which 19 Indian soldiers and an army colonel had been killed.
According to a person familiar with the matter, the sticking points to further dialogue were China not agreeing to move out of new positions its troops had occupied on the banks of the Pangong Tso Lake and in the Depsang plains situated to the north of the Galwan Valley. According to India, China has intruded into its territory at many places along the 3,488 kilometre long border – including three points in the Galwan Valley and an area known as Hot Springs, besides Pangong Tso and Depsang.
“Both sides have mentioned their red lines. And the next move is that someone climbs down at the diplomatic level or at the military level, which is not happening. There is no talk of disengagement. So there is a deadlock" said Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor of Chinese Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
It was a consequence of the ground realities – ie no progress in diplomatic talks – that made India issue a strong statement on Thursday, warning that a “continuation of the current situation would only vitiate the atmosphere for the development of the relationship," Kondapalli said. On Friday, Indian ambassador to China, Vikram Misri also said that the military standoff with China can only be ended if the Chinese stop erecting new structures in Indian territory. Actions taken by Chinese forces on the ground have considerably damaged trust in the bilateral relationship, Misri was quoted as saying in reference to China amassing troops in close proximity to the border in violation of a 1993 pact.
New Delhi also indicated it was willing to up the ante against China on the multilateral front. On Friday, Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar called for the setting aside of politics and “dispassionately" analyzing the “causes and drivers of the current coronavirus pandemic." This is expected to rile China which has tried to scuttle all moves and calls for an investigation into how covid-19 became a pandemic of such proportions after it first surfaced in China’s Hubei province in December. On Saturday, Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF)’s Twitter handle put out pictures of two naval vessels Kashima and Shimayuki in exercises with the Indian Navy’s Rana and Kulish in the Indian Ocean. “JMSDF promoted mutual understanding with Indian Navy through this exercise" read the caption. A news report in the Nikkei Asian Review on Saturday said Japan's Defence Ministry was to establish a new team to deal with the Indo-Pacific affairs as part of its efforts to advance a regional strategy involving the US, India and Australia. The move “reflects the importance Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government places on its ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy’ at a time when China’s maritime presence is attracting renewed attention," the report said.
These developments come as more countries voiced opposition to China's aggressive behavior. The 10 member Association of South East Asian Nations or ASEAN on Saturday said a 1982 UN oceans treaty should be the basis of sovereign rights and entitlements in the South China Sea – a key waterway – over which China and many nations within the ASEAN are locked in dispute. It was referring to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. An AP report said the ASEAN statement marked a significant strengthening of its assertion of the rule of law in the disputed region where China has taken in recent years taken aggressive steps to bolster its sovereignty claims.
Last week, US secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said the US is looking to move some of its troops to the Indo-Pacific region due to the problems faced by countries like India and Malaysia at the hands of China.