Amidst the ongoing standoff between the Indian and Chinese Forces along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) officials of both countries held diplomatic talks in Beijing earlier this week (Feb 22, 2023). Since 2019, this was the first in-person meeting under the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on India-China Border Affairs.
The WMCC was activated following the face-off between the two forces in eastern Ladakh in May 2020 and the meetings have been all done virtually.
According to the statements released by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and the Chinese Foreign Ministry, there was no indication of any breakthrough during discussions on the proposal for disengagement.
Both sides have deployed more than 50,000 troops each in the Ladakh sector. And once again in December 2022 there was a clash between the troops of both sides along the LAC at Yangtse, near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh.
What was the agenda?
The two sides reviewed the situation along the LAC in the western sector and according to the official statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs they discussed disengagement in the remaining areas in an open and constructive manner.
And “such disengagement would help in restoration of peace and tranquility along the LAC in the western sector and also create conditions for restoration of normalcy in bilateral relations.”
The two sides have decided to hold the 18th round of Senior Commanders meeting at an early date and agreed to continue discussions through diplomatic and military channels.
During the WMCC meet the Indian side was led by joint secretary (East Asia) Shilpak Ambule from the MEA and the Chinese delegation was led by Hong Liang, Director General of the Boundary and Oceanic Affairs, Department of the Foreign Ministry.
Situation so far
As a result of more than several meetings at diplomatic and military level in the past three years India and China have withdrawn troops from the two banks of the Pangong Lake, Gogra and Hot Springs. However there is no breakthrough on the friction points such as Depsang and Demchok.
When was the last WMCC?
It had taken place in October 2022 virtually and there was no breakthrough.
View of an Indian Army Veteran
Lt Col Manoj K Channan, Retd says, “The meeting held in Beijing and the Ministry of External Affairs’ press release indicate that the dialogue is the way forward. At the same time, the PLA and the Indian Army have remained deployed along the LAC since March 2020.
While the discussions have been held, much headway has yet to be made, and as in all diplomatic meetings, both parties have agreed to meet soon.”
According to the Indian Army Veteran, “Dr S Jaishankar, in an interview with ANI, has thrown in the towel by stating that China, a bigger economy, and India, a smaller economy, cannot afford to get into a fight. He further substantiates his statement by stating that bilateral agreements do not permit the deployment of troops. China has belligerently violated this at a time of its choosing. What the Foreign Minister is trying to salvage under this fig leaf needs to be understood.”
“The Chinese quickly pick up such cues and exploit them to the hilt. The silence of the political leadership does not help much. The administration of the G 20 Summit is the only reason to celebrate for a year. The meetings across different cities in India are a great way to showcase our hospitality, culture and people,” Lt Col Channan opines.
“The more we hope things change, the more they remain the same as far as China is concerned. We are joined at the hip in sourcing our raw materials for manufacturing; upsetting this apple cart will hurt us much more. Since March 2020, we have had a trade of $100 Billion which has increased by $25 Billion. We need to think quickly about alternative sources to get out of China’s vice grip over us,” he added.