China's attempt to unilaterally change status quo led to Ladakh face-off: MEA

MEA says India is strongly committed to ensuring its territorial integrity

[File]  Indian and Chinese soldiers jointly celebrate the New Year 2019 at Bumla along the Indo-China border in Arunachal Pradesh | PTI [File] Indian and Chinese soldiers jointly celebrate the New Year 2019 at Bumla along the Indo-China border in Arunachal Pradesh | PTI

Hours after China blamed India for the violence on the border, India has asserted that the “violent face-off’’ happened as a result of “an attempt by the Chinese side to unilaterally change the status quo’’.

“Both sides suffered casualties that could have been avoided had the agreement at the higher level been scrupulously followed by the Chinese side,’’ said Anurag Srivastava, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs. 

The clash at the border had resulted in the death of an Indian Army Colonel and two soldiers. While the Army had issued a statement, the MEA had remained tight-lipped till late in the evening. Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the issue.

Tensions between India and China have been at a high on the border for the past two months. Both the countries had committed to solve differences peacefully. “While it was our expectation that this would unfold smoothly, the Chinese side departed from the consensus to respect the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Galwan Valley,’’ said Srivastava.

India also refuted China’s accusation that Indian troops had crossed the border twice. “Given its responsible approach to border management, India is very clear that all its activities are always within the Indian side of the LAC. We expect the same of the Chinese side,’’ said Srivastava. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian was quoted by the Global Times as blaming India for the clashes, stating that Indian troops “crossed the border twice for illegal activities and launched provocative attacks against Chinese personnel, leading to serious physical conflicts between troops from both sides."

The relationship between India and China has been delicate in the last few months. However, the two sides had engaged to bring down temperatures. A “productive meeting’’ between the senior commanders was held on June 6 and “a process for de-escalation’’ had been planned, Srivastava said. “Subsequently, ground commanders had a series of meetings to implement the consensus reached at a higher level,’’ he added.

This is not the first time that the two sides have been engaged in a border conflict. This is the first time, however, for decades that the clash has resulted in the spilling of blood on both sides. The question is what went wrong, especially at a time when both sides had promised to solve issues “through military and diplomatic channels’’. China, too, had echoed the same words.

The situation has been a cause of concern with even US President Donald Trump jumping in offering mediation, an offer both India and China rejected. By all accounts, Trump is believed to have been briefed on the situation. So, an American nudge for peace can’t be ruled out.  

“We remain firmly convinced of the need for the maintenance of peace and tranquility in the border areas and the resolution of differences through dialogue. At the same time, we are also strongly committed to ensuring India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,’’ said Srivastava.