NEW DELHI: India and China agreed to refrain from taking anyurther military actions that may escalate tensions in eastern Ladakh, but there was no tangible breakthrough in resolving the over-four-month military confrontation during a meeting between defence minister Rajnath Singh and his Chinese counterpart, Gen Wei Fenghe, in Moscow on Friday.
In the first such high-level political meeting since the face-off began, Singh told Wei that India would not cede even an inch of its territory and would protect its sovereignty at all costs.
Wei, in turn, said the responsibility for the current tensions lies “entirely” with the Indian side. There could be a more substantive outcome in the meeting between foreign minister S Jaishankar and his counterpart,
, on September 10.
But amidst all the muscular signalling, the two sides did agree to continue working through diplomatic and military channels to disengage and de-escalate along the LAC in consonance with the “consensus” between
PM Narendra Modi
for maintaining peace and tranquillity in the border region.
At the 140-minute meeting, Singh categorically said the PLA’s “aggressive actions and behaviour” in trying to “unilaterally alter the status quo” violated all bilateral agreements. According to Xinhua, Wei said, “China’s territory cannot be lost, and the Chinese military is fully determined, capable, and confident to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
With winter fast approaching in eastern Ladakh, both sides would want a way out of the stalemate though the stakes in terms of perceptions about “stepping back” have risen after the PLA halted the disengagement process. Gen Wei, a PLA veteran, came to the hotel Singh was staying at and is understood to have mentioned how he has sought discussion on no less than three occasions earlier.
China, in fact, had pushed for the defence ministerial meet after Indian troops conducted a pre-emptive military manoeuvre last weekend to occupy multiple heights in the Chushul sector, from the southern bank of Pangong Tso and Spanggur Gap to Rezang La and Reqin La.
The move has given India some bargaining leverage for the first time in the ongoing negotiations. At the meeting on Friday, India stuck to its bottomline that China restore status quo as it existed in April by withdrawing its forces from Pangong Tso, Gogra and Depsang, while also reducing its military build-up along the LAC.
Singh told his counterpart there should be no doubt about the troops’ determination to protect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
In Video:Rajnath Singh slams China for changing status quo at LAC