GP Insights # 385, 18 July 2020
On 14 July 2020, Commanders from the Indian and Chinese militaries held a 14-hour long meeting at Chushul for the fourth round of talks to facilitate the ongoing disengagement at the India-China border. The talks were consistent with the agreement reach between the two Special Representatives of India and China held on 5 July 2020. Reportedly, although both the sides insisted on complete disengagement during the talks Chinese side was adamant that they would not back off from Finger 4.
What is the background?
First, the agreements from the past and the India- China relationship. India and China share a border of 3,844 km and are divided by the Line of Actual Control (LAC). There is no consensus on both the side on the LAC, each side has its views and hence regular transgressions take place. The 15 June violent face-off took place is a violation of the agreement that the two sides had reached in 1993, 1996, 2013 that facilitated maintaining peace and tranquillity on the LAC. In 1996 both sides agreed not to use firearms in the volatile area. It is the deadliest stand-off in the last forty years and violates all the agreements reach until now.
Second, the multiple attempts at dousing the situation. At the Galwan Valley, as the Indian and Chinese troops were in the process of disengagement another face-off took place. The Chinese troops with iron clubs bristling with spikes hit the Indian soldiers. In the clash, 20 Indian army personnel and number of Chinese soldiers were killed. The Chinese government has not confirmed the number of causalities yet. As a follow up to the deteriorating situation at the LAC, the Special Representative from both the sides had a telephonic conversation on 5 July 2020 and agreed on a "complete disengagement" of the troops" along LAC and "de-escalation" from the border area restoring peace and tranquillity. They insisted on a phased and stepwise de-escalation in the border areas.
Third, taking forward the "complete disengagement". The troops from both sides have moved back by 2 km each at the patrolling point 15 and the patrol point 17. This has created a buffer zone in the region. The buffer zone is a temporary arrangement and calls for a short-term suspension of patrols by both sides to ensure that situation does not blow out of proportion leading to clashes as it happened on 15 June. The patrolling will start once the disengagement is complete.
What does it mean?
At the 16th meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) on 10 July, the Ministry of External Affairs reiterated that two Special Representatives and Senior Commanders would meet soon to discuss steps to ensure "complete disengagement" and "de-escalation" in a timely manner. Amid the disengagement process, on 16 July 2020, the MEA has reiterated India and China have agreed on complete disengagement of troops along the LAC and de-escalation from border areas, and there is no change in India's position on the LAC, indicating that the channels for negotiations remain open with no change in status quo.