India and China have agreed to “quickly disengage” from a standoff that has seen gunfire at a disputed border and accusations of kidnapping. Their foreign ministers met on Thursday and said they would ease tensions.
In a joint statement, the neighbours said the “current situation 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,” said the statement, released by Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.
Both sides have accused each other of straying into their territory, and the clashes have sometimes turned deadly. Soldiers from both countries have periodically skirmished along the poorly demarcated border, called the Line of Actual Control. It is understood that the military commanders’ meeting in the next few days will chalk out steps of disengagement more clearly, which the Foreign Ministers will review before deciding on the course ahead.
The five points agreed to are a template for the “principles of disengagement”, said a senior official privy to the meeting, but large divergences still remain in the positions taken by both sides. Both Ministers had a frank and constructive discussion on the developments in the India-China border areas as well as on India-China relations and agreed as follows:
1. The two Ministers agreed that both sides should take guidance from the series of consensus of the leaders on developing India-China relations, including not allowing differences to become disputes.
2. 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.
3. The two Ministers agreed that both sides shall abide by all the existing agreements and protocol on China-India boundary affairs, maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas and avoid any action that could escalate matters.
4. The two sides also agreed to continue to have dialogue and communication through the Special Representative 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 its meetings.
5. The Ministers agreed that as the situation eases, the two sides should expedite work to conclude new Confidence Building Measures to maintain and enhance peace and tranquillity in the border areas
According to the Chinese press release, state councillor Wang said that bilateral relations between the two Asian neighbours “have once again come to a crossroads”. “But (he added) as long as the two sides keep moving the relationship in the right direction, there will be no difficulty or challenge that can’t be overcome.”
Jaishankar told his Chinese counterpart that India remained concerned at the massing of Chinese troops at the LAC, which was not in accordance with the 1993 and 1996 agreements. There has been “no credible explanation for this deployment”, which the minister said has created flash points along the LAC.
The Indian side said that the Chinese front line troops’ “provocative behaviour” at the various stand-off points showed disregard for border pacts and protocols.