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Is China rethinking the border standoff after Jaishankar-Wang Yi meeting in Bali?

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Bali, Indonesia, on Thursday (Image courtesy: Twitter/@DrSJaishankar)

Asserting that India-China relationship is best served by observing the three mutuals – mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests – External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar called for an early resolution of all the outstanding issues along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh during a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Bali, on Thursday.  

As the G20 Foreign Ministers converged on the Indonesian island for a meeting, Jaishankar and Wang Yi began the day by holding discussions which lasted one hour.

"Recalling the disengagement achieved in some friction areas, EAM reiterated the need to sustain the momentum to complete disengagement from all the remaining areas to restore peace and tranquillity in the border areas. He reaffirmed the importance of fully abiding by bilateral agreements and protocols, and the understandings reached between the two Ministers during their previous conversations," the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement later.  

It added that both Ministers affirmed that the military and diplomatic officials of the two sides should continue maintaining regular contact and looked forward to the next round of Senior Commanders’ meeting at an early date.

This was the first meeting between the two ministers after Wang Yi's visit to New Delhi in March which was also the first high-level trip by any Chinese leader to India since the 2020 Galwan Valley clash.

Significantly, Zhao Lijian, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman in Beijing, said in response to a question that – in accordance with the important common understandings reached by the two leaders and the agreements signed by both sides – the boundary issues related to the Western sector should be resolved in line with the principle of “mutual and equal security”.

Zhao was referring to the 1993 Peace and Tranquillity accord between India and China where the concept of “mutual and equal security” was flagged. It implied that given the harsher terrain on the Indian side, troops from both sides should not be pulled back to the same distance. Instead, the withdrawals, keeping in mind the unequal terrain as well as infrastructure, should be such as to yield “equal security”. It remains to be seen if the revival of the formulation will yield tangible results on the ground, or is yet another Chinese attempt at obfuscation and window-dressing.  

Calling for an early resolution of all the outstanding issues along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh, Jaishankar also recalled the March meeting and reviewed the progress of some key issues discussed then, including the return of students. He also stressed the need for expediting the process and facilitating the return of students on an early date.

The two ministers also exchanged perspectives on other regional and global developments. The MEA stated that Wang Yi appreciated India's support during China's BRICS Chairship this year and assured its support for India's upcoming G20 and SCO Presidency.

"Focused on specific outstanding issues in our bilateral relationship pertaining to the border situation. Also spoke about other matters including students and flights. Shared perspectives on the international situation and its impact on the G20 deliberations," tweeted Jaishankar after the meeting. 


Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Russia, India and China (RIC) meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Osaka in June 2019 (File image courtesy: PIB)

Even as it continues to engage with China on various  multilateral and plurilateral forums, including BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) and the RIC (Russia-India-China) format, New Delhi has repeatedly made it clear that any future cooperation with Beijing would majorly depend on its military's complete disengagement from all the friction points along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh in accordance with the existing bilateral agreements and protocols.

Just before Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated in the 14th BRICS Summit convened under the Chairship of Chinese President Xi Jinping last month, India's Ambassador Pradeep Kumar Rawat had held talks with Wang Yi at the Diaoyutai State Guest House on June 22.

The Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister had conveyed to Rawat that there is consensus on the importance of bilateral relations for Asia and the world at the highest level of leadership of the two countries.

According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, during his meeting with the Indian Ambassador, Wang Yi put forward "four-pronged perseverance" on China-India relations. 

China India

Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi with Indian Ambassador to China Pradeep Kumar Rawat, last month (Image courtesy: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China)

First, persevere in the important strategic consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries that "China and India are partners rather than rivals, and are not threats to each other but opportunities for each other's development".

Second, persevere in putting the boundary issue in an appropriate place in bilateral relations and seeking solutions through dialogue and consultation.

Third, persevere in continuously injecting positive energy into bilateral relations, fully leveraging the traditional strengths of cultural and people-to-people exchanges, and continuously expanding mutually beneficial cooperation.

And fourthly, persevere in expanding multilateral cooperation, joining hands to revitalize Oriental civilizations, coping with the complicated world together, and opening up a brighter future for mankind.

"Wang Yi said, the two sides should work in the same direction to maintain the warming momentum in China-India relations and bring them back to the track of stable and sound development at an early date. The two sides should work together to cope with various global challenges, and safeguard the common interests of China, India and the vast developing countries," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in its statement on June 22.

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