External affairs minister S. Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi met Wednesday in Dushanbe, where both were attending a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. The fact that the two had a conversation is positive but beyond a detailed exchange of views on eastern Ladakh and the overall India-China relations, there was no forward movement. The Chinese appear to be in no hurry to complete the disengagement process and India’s frustration at China’s attitude is obvious.
Since the disengagement in the Pangong Tso area, China is dragging its feet over pulling out from other areas where the LAC was breached last summer.
Jaishankar’s emphasis on “the need to follow through on the agreement” reached in Moscow (September 2020) “and complete the disengagement,” is an indication that India’s unhappiness at the slow progress in the other sectors was conveyed to Wang Yi.
“EAM pointed out to State Councillor that the successful disengagement in the Pangong Lake Area earlier this year had created conditions for resolving the remaining issues. It was expected that the Chinese side would work with us towards this objective. EAM noted however that the situation in the remaining areas is still unresolved,” the MEA statement issued late evening on the meeting said.
Concluded a one-hour bilateral meeting with State Councilor and FM Wang Yi of China on the sidelines of Dushanbe SCO Foreign Ministers Meeting.
Discussions focused on the outstanding issues along the LAC in the Western Sector. pic.twitter.com/YWJWatUErI— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) July 14, 2021
Though the statement did not say so, it was quite obvious that Jaishankar made it clear that unless the status quo ante was restored, it could not be business as usual for the two Asian neighbours. India is in no mood to keep Ladakh on the backburner and go ahead with other aspects of the relationship as the two countries had done earlier over the boundary negotiations.
“… both sides had agreed that a prolongation of the existing situation was not in the interest of either side. It was visibly impacting the relationship in a negative manner. Assessing the overall relationship, EAM emphasized that maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas has been the foundation for the development of ties since 1988. The attempts to change status quo last year that also disregarded commitments under the 1993 and 1996 agreements have inevitably affected ties,” the MEA statement said.
He said it was therefore important that the two sides work toward an early resolution of the remaining issues along the LAC in Ladakh while abiding by bilateral agreements and protocols.
Both sides agreed to hold another meeting of the military commanders at an early date to smooth out the remaining issues. The ministers also agreed to keep in touch.
“There was also an understanding that both sides will continue to ensure stability on the ground and neither side will take any unilateral action that could increase tension,” the MEA statement said. Not taking unilateral action is important as the PLA is said to have reinforced its position in the area with the deployment of S-400 missiles.
In short, positions appear to have hardened on both sides and the disengagement process is likely to take much longer than previously anticipated.