India refutes Chinese claim, says commanders will hold bilateral talks
India on Thursday refuted China’s claim that troops from both sides had disengaged from most of the friction points at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and said the process is “not completed.”
This firm assertion by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) came sometime after Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong said border troops of both the countries “have disengaged in most localities” and China was not a strategic threat to India.
“Border troops have disengaged in most localities, situation on ground is de-escalating and temperature is coming down. China is committed to peaceful development and is not a strategic threat to India,” Weidong said.
MEA Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava, however, said, “Some progress has been made, but disengagement process has not yet been completed. The senior commanders of the two sides will be meeting in near future to work out steps in this regard,” he added.
Srivastava also said India and China agreed that early and complete disengagement of troops along the LAC and de-escalation from border areas, and full restoration of peace and tranquility was essential for smooth overall development of bilateral relations.
Giving the background, the spokesperson said it was agreed last week by India
and China in the 17th meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation & Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) early and complete disengagement
of the troops along the LAC and de-escalation from India-China border areas in accordance with bilateral agreement and protocols and full restoration of peace and tranquility was essential for smooth
overall development of bilateral relations. This was also the agreement reached between the two Special Representatives, National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in their conversation on July 5.
“As we have stated earlier, the maintenance of peace and tranquility in the border areas is the basis of our bilateral relationship. Therefore, we expect that the Chinese side will sincerely work with us for complete disengagement and de-escalation and full restoration of peace and tranquility in the border areas at the earliest as agreed to by the Special Representatives,” Srivastava said.
Meanwhile, the Chinese envoy also said both sides should properly handle differences to bring bilateral relations back to normal track. “Both sides should grasp fundamental interests of two countries and their peoples, stick to friendly cooperation,” he said.
The Chinese claim and India countering it came as both the sides are now preparing for the fifth round of Corps Commander-level talks in the next few days. The two senior military officers will review the pace of withdrawal of troops from the four stand-off sites in Eastern Ladakh.
India will also insist that status quo ante be restored by China by retreating to its positions as were there in April end. The first face-off took place on May 5 when the Chinese troops intruded more than 5 km into India at the Pangong Tso (lake)and obstructed an Indian patrol. It resulted in fisticuffs and some soldiers from both sides getting injured.
The Indian Corps Commander will also take up the issue of China not withdrawing its troops from Pangong Tso. The Chinese troops are now positioned on some of the crucial mountain spurs near the lake thereby posing a grave threat to the Indian interests.
In a positive development, the troops from both sides have pulled back to their respective rear locations from the stand-off sites in the Galwan valley and Hot Springs. The withdrawals from Hot Springs are slow from the Chinese side.
Another cause of concern is the Chinese reluctance to pull back more than 40,000 troops now deployed at the front and depth areas. The two sides in the earlier meetings had agreed to thin down the strength of troops and weapons as a confidence building measure.
This has not come about and the Indian security establishment is also not taking any chances. The Indian Army has also trained and acclimatised more than 25,000 troops for deployment in Ladakh where oxygen levels are low. The Indian troops are also adjusted to cold weather as most of them have served tenures in Siachen and other such tough terrain.
These troops are now in position at vantage places in Ladakh and will be deployed according to emerging situation in the coming days, sources said adding the armed forces are ready for a long haul.
In order to enable soldiers to function even during harsh winter months when temperature dips to minus 20 degrees in Ladakh, the Army is making provisions for portable cabins to withstand cold. Also, to meet any additional requirements, the Government has allowed the armed forces to buy more special tents and shelters meant for high altitudes from Indian and foreign vendors on emergency basis, sources said.
Friday, 31 July 2020 | PNS | New Delhi