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INDIA-CHINA:The two sides haven’t made headway on disengagement and de-escalation at friction points on the LAC despite several rounds of diplomatic and military talks

India on Friday squarely blamed China’s unilateral actions to change the status along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) for bilateral tensions, and called on the Chinese side to deliver on pledges about abiding by border agreements and resolving the boundary issue through talks.

Pushing back against China’s assertion on Thursday that responsibility for the nearly eight-month border standoff lay “totally” with the Indian side, external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said the actions of Chinese troops had consistently violated bilateral agreements on maintaining peace and tranquillity on the LAC.

The two sides haven’t made headway on disengagement and de-escalation at friction points on the LAC despite several rounds of diplomatic and military talks, including eight rounds between senior army commanders, and tens of thousands of Indian and Chinese troops have dug in for the winter in Ladakh sector.

On Wednesday, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said China has offered “five differing explanations” for deploying thousands of soldiers on the LAC and pushing bilateral ties into their most difficult phase ever. A day later, China’s foreign ministry said responsibility for the situation “totally lies with the Indian side”.

Asked about China’s accusation at the weekly news briefing, Srivastava replied: “The situation that we have seen since the last six months has been a result of the actions of the Chinese side, which has sought to effect a unilateral change in status along the LAC in eastern Ladakh. These actions are in violation of bilateral agreements and protocols on ensuring peace and tranquillity along the LAC.”

Pointing to the Chinese foreign ministry’s statement that it observes “strictly the agreements between the two sides and is committed to resolving the border issue through dialogue and safeguarding peace and tranquillity”, Srivastava added: “We expect that the Chinese side will match its words with actions.”

The “core issues”, Srivastava said, include both sides strictly following bilateral agreements on the border issue “in their entirety, including the 1993 and 1996 agreements on maintenance of peace and tranquillity along the LAC”.

These agreements require that both sides shouldn’t amass troops on the LAC, should strictly abide by and respect the LAC, and not take any unilateral action to alter the LAC.

India and China have maintained communications through diplomatic and military channels, and New Delhi expects “further discussions will help both sides to achieve an agreement on a mutually acceptable solution for ensuring complete disengagement in all friction points along the LAC in the Western sector and full restoration of peace and tranquillity as early as possible”, Srivastava said.

Asked about China’s contention that the joint launch of a stamp marking the 70th anniversary of diplomatic ties was cancelled because of lack of feedback from India, Srivastava said the launch of overall celebrations hadn’t been held and there was no question of going ahead with other activities.

The joint release of commemorative stamps was one of the activities agreed on with the Chinese side last year to mark the anniversary of diplomatic ties, but there had been no discussion on any launch date with Chinese authorities, he said.

The Chinese embassy spokesperson’s tweet suggesting the event was cancelled on account of lack of feedback from the Indian side “is factually incorrect”, Srivastava said. “It may be noted that the launch of the 70th anniversary celebrations itself has not taken place yet, and therefore, the issue of going ahead with joint activities under its ambit does not arise,” he added.

Sameer Patil, fellow for international security studies at Gateway House, said the accusations between India and China regarding the situation on the LAC reflected the lack of progress in talks to push forward disengagement and de-escalation.

“The foremost objective for the Indian side now is that the situation on the ground shouldn’t deteriorate. We don’t expect a serious clash because of the harsh weather during winter and the hope is that the two sides can work towards a resolution after the passing of winter,” he said.

“The situation is complicated and both sides aren’t budging. With no possibility of a resolution any time soon, probably only the top leadership of the two sides can break the ice and take things forward,” Patil added.

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