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Pull back troops if you want normal ties, Jaishankar tells Chinese foreign minister

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar with his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is reported to have sent across a firm message to his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang, at their meeting in New Delhi, that the bilateral relations between the two Asian giants are far from normal as the military face-off on the Ladakh border continues.

According to a report in the Hindustan Times, Jaishankar  told Qin Gang that “the key to the restoration of normal bilateral ties between the two countries lies in PLA allowing resumption of legitimate patrolling rights of the Indian Army in Depsang Plains in Daulet Beg Oldi (DBO) sector and at Charding Nullah junction in Demchok area in East Ladakh followed by de-escalation of troops.”

Although Gang and Jaishankar know each other well because of the latter’s long stint in Beijing as India’s ambassador, this was their first meeting since Gang took over as foreign minister recently.

Qin Gang “was apparently hesitant in his new role as China’s foreign minister,” according to the Hindustan Times report. However, he is very close to President Xi Jinping.

After China tried to forcibly change the LAC with intrusions in May 2020, India has also been forced to strengthen its military position.

India’s decision to bring armoured units in Ladakh and fast-track the deployment of the exceptionally powerful S-400 Triumf air defence systems is meant to counter the threat from China, which has refused budge from key positions in Ladakh after it carried out multiple intrusions across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in May 2020.

The situation on the LAC remains tense but stable as both armies have created buffer zones or no patrolling areas at all the friction points. However, there has been no de-escalation of forces on either side for the past three years.

The Indian Army has also beefed up its position in the middle and eastern sector of the LAC with the PLA bringing in additional troops before the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in October last year.  The Indian Air Force has also taken steps to counter this potential threat.

India has made it clear that it will not cede even an inch of territory and would hit back in case of any mischief on the part of the Chinese army.

The Narendra Modi government has been closely tracking the situation and tackling the challenge in a mature manner, despite the rival Congress party politicising the sensitive border issue.

The Chinese PLA which is largely dependent on conscripts is feeling the heat as the more experienced Indian soldiers have demonstrated their professionalism in the bitter cold of the high altitude areas.