Ladakh Standoff: India, China talks on disengagement to continue; China appoints new commander for Western Theater

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Updated: December 21, 2020 11:40 AM

The ongoing diplomatic and military negotiations between India and China can be interpreted in two contrary ways, even as the two sides are trying hard to find a common ground for disengagement at all the friction points.

According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) both sides have agreed “To work towards an early and complete disengagement and they want to have the next round of talks at the earliest.” (File photo: IE)

The ongoing diplomatic and military negotiations between India and China can be interpreted in two contrary ways, even as the two sides are trying hard to find a common ground for disengagement at all the friction points. Prof Rajan Kumar, School of International Studies, JNU, tells Financial Express Online, “A pessimist would lament the lack of progress despite several rounds of negotiations. One would argue that the deadlock continues and there is no progress on the key issue of restoring the status quo ante.”

And, on the other hand, “an optimist would argue that the framework of Working Mechanisms for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) has facilitated dialogues even during the tense atmosphere,” he observes.

Eight round of commander and several rounds of diplomatic talks prove that the two sides do not intend to escalate the conflict. According to Prof Rajan, “The negotiations on borders are always slow and incremental, especially when two big powers are involved. The conflict between India and China would be a “war of attrition” and none of the parties would like to engage in that kind of conflict. The institutions which were created earlier continue to be relevant even during the standoffs.”

The two sides have expressed satisfaction at the level of progress and regularly review the implementation of the decisions taken earlier. In his opinion “What transpires at these negotiations are never completely known to the public and one often speculates about the basis of official statements which are moderated to suit the public consumption and scrutiny.”

What did MEA say last week?

Last week, the two sides have agreed to have another round of military dialogue at the earliest.

According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) both sides have agreed “To work towards an early and complete disengagement and they want to have the next round of talks at the earliest.”

A round of virtual diplomatic level talks on Friday (December 18, 2020) was held under the framework of Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on India-China border affairs. The focus was on early and total disengagement of troops in line with the bilateral agreement and protocols in place. During the virtual discussions both India and China also reviewed the developments along the LAC. The last meeting of WMCC was on September 30, 2020, and the military standoff between the two countries had started in May.

At the end of the virtual talks an official statement issued by MEA stated that both sides have had in-depth discussions during the 7th and 8th rounds of senior commanders meetings which had taken place in October and November. “These discussions had made a contribution in ensuring stability on the ground and both sides agreed to have the next round of senior commanders meeting at the earliest,” added the statement.

Update

So far there has been no concrete outcome at the end of marathon talks between the two sides and China continues its belligerence. Almost 50,000 troops of the Indian Army are deployed in a high state of combat readiness in sub-zero conditions in various locations in the eastern Ladakh. Even China has deployed an equal number of its troops.

Meanwhile…

The Chinese President Xi Jinping has appointed Gen Zhang Xudong, who is going to replace Gen Zhao Zongqi, as a new commander for the Western Theater Command (WTC).

Why is this command critical?

Because it is responsible to look after China’s border with India. The appointment of Gen Xudong comes amidst the continued standoff between the militaries of both countries at the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.

The powerful Gen Zhao Zongqi, who is retiring at the age of 65 and he was the second-in-command in the Central Theater Command. This command is responsible for the security of Beijing.

What will the new Chinese General look at?

Oversee the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Ground Force (Army), Air Force and Rocket Force. And also other elements within the Tibet and Xinjiang regions.

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