At the end of the 8th round of Corps Commander talks between India and China in Chushul on November 6, there seems to have been no breakthrough. There was no indication from either side that any agreement had been worked out to break the current logjam in Ladakh. Any hope that the two sides would agree to withdraw troops as the cold weather sets-in have been dashed.
The one positive takeaway is that the engagement between the commanders as well as diplomats of both countries will continue with another round of meetings on the cards.
“The two sides had a candid, in-depth, and constructive exchange of views on disengagement along the Line of Actual Control in the Western Sector of India-China border areas. Both sides agreed to earnestly implement the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries, ensure their frontline troops to exercise restraint and avoid misunderstanding and a miscalculation,” both the MEA and the Chinese embassy said in similar statements released on Sunday morning.
Significantly Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping will be together on the same platform on November 17, when the BRICS summit is held. Unfortunately, the summit will be via video conference. It will be interesting to note if the two leaders make any reference to the border issue during their virtual exchange. The virtual platform does not allow for talks on the side-lines, as physical meetings do. Russia, India, China, Brazil, and South Africa are members of the group. But BRICS which began with much fanfare and hopes of creating an alternative platform for emerging economies, has not lived up to expectations. The big achievement has been the BRICS bank.
Prime Minister Modi and President Xi have not spoken since the military confrontation between the two countries. However foreign minister S.Jaishankar as well as defence minister Rajnath Singh have both met their counterparts in Moscow. Many believe that a meeting at the highest political level, meaning a summit between Modi and Xi is needed to break the current impasse.
The 2017 BRICS summit in China was held against the background of the Doklam standoff in Bhutan. The 73-day Doklam standoff was resolved ahead of the BRICS summit. President Xi Jinping was keen on the summit and unless Doklam was resolved it was pretty clear that the Indian Prime Minister would not attend. The issue was resolved at the end of August, with both sides agreeing to go back to their previous positions. So, the path was cleared for Modi to travel to China and take part in the BRICS summit. Soon afterward the Wuhan informal summit followed. However, despite Wuhan and Mahabalipuram later, China’s policy along the Line of Actual Control remains unchanged. This time the focus is on reviving the claim line of January 1959, first raised by former Chinese prime minister Zhou Enlai’s letter to Pandit Nehru. The Indian leader had rejected it.