NEW DELHI: India and China have agreed to establish a hotline between the foreign ministers of the two countries in a phone call that assessed the situation following disengagement of troops at one major friction point in Ladakh.
The phone call that took place on Thursday lasted 75 minutes, a readout issued by the Indian foreign ministry said on Friday. The Indian and Chinese readouts of the talks both referred to the hotline the aim of which was “for timely communication and exchange of views," the Chinese statement said.
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The two foreign ministers – S Jaishankar of India and Wang Yi of China – acknowledged the disengagement of troops from the north and south banks of Pangong Tso lake seen as a major point of dispute in the current phase of tensions that began last May when China mobilized a large number of troops along the border with India in Ladakh and also transgressed into Indian territory.
But the statements also exposed differences that existed between the two sides.
The Indian statement spoke of Jaishankar underlining that the tensions in ties were caused by the China trying to unilaterally change the status quo along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) border. The minister said that the question of the unsettled boundary -- a legacy of the 1962 war between the two countries -- “may take time to resolve but disturbance of peace and tranquility including by violence, will inevitably have a damaging impact on the relationship." The reference was to the clash at Galwan area in Ladakh in June last year in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed. Last week China said four of its soldiers were killed in the clash.
The Indian minister “highlighted that both sides had always agreed that maintenance of peace and tranquility in border areas was essential basis for development of bilateral relations." But the Chinese statement said that while “the two countries have boundary disputes is an objective fact, which should be taken seriously, it is not the whole of China-India relations, and it should be put at a proper place in the overall bilateral relations."
“A prolongation of the existing situation was not in the interest of either side," the Indian statement said Jaishankar had conveyed to China – a reference to the need to disengage in troops at other friction points as well including the Depsang Plains, Gogra and Hotsprings areas. A 1tenth round of talks between Indian and Chinese military commanders had not been able to arrive at a solution for disengagement from these three friction points.
“It was, therefore, necessary that the two sides should work towards the early resolution of remaining issues" ie disengagement in the three friction areas, the Indian minister told his Chinese counterpart. “It was necessary to disengage at all friction points in order to contemplate de-escalation of forces in this sector. That alone will lead to the restoration of peace and tranquility and provide conditions for progress of our bilateral relationship," Jaishankar was said to have told the Chinese foreign minister.
The Chinese statement on the other hand said that Wang had noted that “there has been some wavering and backpedaling in India's China policy, and practical cooperation between the two countries has been affected. This does not serve the interests of either side. Decades of experiences have shown repeatedly that heightening differences does not help solve problems, and that it only erodes the basis of mutual trust."
This was a possible reference to India banning Chinese mobile apps like TikTok in the aftermath of the tensions. In all India has banned more than 200 Chinese apps and also put on hold investments from China.
Wang said that the frontline troops of the two countries have recently completed disengagement in the Pangong Lake areas and that the “situation on the ground has been noticeably eased."
“It is imperative for the two sides to cherish the hard-won relaxation, and work together to consolidate the progress, keep up the consultation momentum, further ease the situation, and improve the border management and control mechanisms," the Chinese statement said.
“The two sides also need to advance the boundary talks to build up mutual trust and realize peace and tranquility in the border areas," the Chinese statement said.
With India and China “both being at a crucial, historical stage of development and rejuvenation, they should help and facilitate each other… A negative trajectory of bilateral relations will incur unnecessary costs and losses on both," Wang was said to have conveyed to the Indian side.
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