Diplomatic border talks today to spell out steps to India-China disengagement

The crucial meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China border affairs (WMCC) will take place on Wednesday where the two sides are expected to have a candid conversation on how to resolve the stand-off at four points in East Ladakh.

The Indian Army, after the marathon meeting of military commanders on June 22 had informally characterised it as “mutual consensus” to disengage but did not go deeper on whose terms. The Chinese spokesperson, in his stiff style, called the situation “cool” as if both the armies were hanging out with each other.

While the marathon meeting is still being analysed, it is now emerging that both the generals forcefully put out claims of their respective armies along the 1,587 km Line of Actual Control (LAC) in East Ladakh.

“There is consensus between both sides to mutually disengage after deliberating on each contested point. The process may take a couple of weeks as the ground commanders will have to verify the disengagement and the thinning out in the depth on a daily basis. It is true that both Chinese and Indian army did force accretion after the June 15 Galwan flare up. There has been no addition of forces since the June 22 military commanders’ meeting,” a senior military commander told Hindustan Times.

The fact is that the situation on the border continues to remain grim with both armies deployed and dug in till such time a clear-cut breakthrough is achieved. The Joint Secretary-level WMCC will now take the military dialogue further with the Indian side using maps, charts and old treaties to make the China counterpart understand how the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, claim on the border is wrong and why the status quo ante must be restored for a strong bilateral relationship.

“Till such time the PLA does not withdraw and restore status quo ante, it is an obfuscation exercise,” said a senior official, very concerned about how the entire dialogue was taking under public glare and pressure.

It is quite evident from the tenor of the dialogue that both sides are holding positions on patrolling points 14, 15, 17 and Pangong Tso, waiting for the other side to blink. “It is a long haul, a battle of nerves. One has to be prepared for all contingencies and at no time lower the guard,” said an official.

Since June 17, 2002, when the Chinese side backed out of exchanging western sector maps at the 12th meeting of the designated Expert Level Group, India is quite clear that Beijing does not want to settle the boundary on the western and eastern sector. Without exchanging the maps in 2002, India saw 12 areas of differences between the two countries in western sector. The PLA, under the instructions of the Central Military Commission, is all out to deepen the 12 differences by nibbling on the border through brazen might and force. Strategically also, it helps Chinese dictators to keep the border in ferment as it holds the potential to destabilise the democratic and multi-party India, where L 1 (lowest bidder) rules prevails and political competition is fierce.

Despite being the paramount leader of an authoritarian communist regime, General Secretary Xi Jinping is under tremendous pressure with slow economic growth hitting Beijing as a manifestation of the failure of the politburo to control the coronavirus pandemic that spread from Wuhan. Rather than focus internally, the regime is firing from the hip at Japan, Australia, India, Taiwan, Hong Kong and US and by keeping the restive populations in Tibet and Xinjiang under iron hand to showcase Han supremacy.

However, the Modi government has made it clear to Beijing that borders are non-negotiable from the very beginning. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, who heads the bilateral Special Representative dialogue on boundary resolution, once told his Chinese counterpart during the meeting that just because his grandfather went to Mansarovar Lake from Garhwal without a visa, should India lay claim to western Tibet. At another time, when his counterpart wanted to bring Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh into the ambit of boundary talks, Doval told him that it is time they put an end to the dialogue as Tawang is not on the table.