India, China agree on 5-point roadmap to resolve border standoff in eastern Ladakh

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India and China have agreed on a five-point roadmap including quick disengagement of troops and avoiding any action that could escalate tensions for resolving the four-month-long face-off in eastern Ladakh.

As the two countries reached the agreement during the talks between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on Thursday evening, government sources said the Indian side strongly raised the deployment of large number of troops and military equipment by China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh and conveyed its concern. The Chinese side could not provide a credible explanation for the troops buildup, the sources said on Friday, Press Trust of India reported.

Mr. Jaishankar and Mr. Wang met in Moscow on the sidelines of the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO). The talks–the second highest political contact between the two countries in a week–lasted two-and-a-half-hours. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Chinese counterpart Gen. Wei Fenghe had also met in Moscow on Friday on the sidelines of a SCO meet.

Government sources said the five-point agreement will guide the approach of the two countries to the current border situation.

The Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army(PLA) have been locked in a tense standoff in multiple areas along the LAC in eastern Ladakh since early May. Shots were fired across the LAC on Monday for the first time in 45 years with the two sides accusing each other of firing in the air.

Besides striving for quick disengagement of troops, the two countries agreed that their soldiers should maintain proper distance from each other and abide by all existing agreements and protocol on management of the de-facto border.

The Ministry of External Affairs(MEA) issued a joint press statement early on Friday featuring five points which were agreed by both the sides at the “frank and constructive” discussions by the two ministers.

“The two foreign ministers agreed that the current situation in the border areas is not in the interest of either side. They agreed, therefore, that the border troops of both sides should continue their dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain proper distance and ease tensions,” it said.

The joint statement said Jaishankar and Wang agreed that both sides should take guidance from the series of consensus reached between leaders of the two countries on developing India-China relations, including not allowing differences to become disputes.

This assessment was a clear reference to decisions taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at their two informal summits in 2018 and 2019.

“The two ministers agreed that both sides shall abide by all the existing agreements and protocol on China-India boundary affairs, maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas and avoid any action that could escalate matters,” the joint statement said.

At the talks, Mr. Jaishankar and Mr. Wang agreed that as the situation eases on the border, the two sides should expedite work to conclude new confidence building measures to maintain and enhance peace and tranquility in the border areas.

The joint statement said the two sides also agreed to continue to have dialogue and communication through the Special Representative(SR) mechanism on the India-China boundary question.

“They also agreed in this context that the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China border affairs (WMCC) should also continue at its meetings,” it added.

A press release issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing quoted Mr. Wang as having told Mr. Jaishankar it is normal for both the countries to have differences but it is important to put them in proper context and take the guidance of the leaders.

Mr. Wang noted that it is normal for China and India to have differences between two neighboring major countries. What is important is to put these differences in a proper context vis-a-vis bilateral relations, the release said.

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