A fresh war of words has erupted between the ministry of external affairs (MEA) and China's ministry of foreign affairs (MFA) over the definition of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
India, on Tuesday, reacted sharply to Chinese claims that it abides by the LAC, as proposed by premier Zhou Enlai to Jawaharlal Nehru via a letter dated November 7, 1959. A report published in Hindustan Times quoted the Chinese foreign ministry as saying that the LAC, as communicated in 1959, is what China considers the border, and that the “international community, including India, are also clear about it.''
India has never accepted this Chinese claim. In a statement, responding to the Hindustan Times article, the MEA said, “India has never accepted the so called unilaterally defined 1959 LAC. The position has been consistent and well known, including to the Chinese side.''
The statement added that under various bilateral agreements, including the 1993 Agreement on Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the LAC, 1996 agreement on Confidence Building Measures (CBM) in the military field, 2005 Protocol on Implementation of CBMs, 2005 agreement on Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question, both India and China have committed to clarification and confirmation of the LAC to reach a common understanding of the alignment of the LAC. “In fact, the two sides had engaged in an exercise to clarify and confirm the LAC up to 2003, but this process could not proceed further as the Chinese side did not show a willingness to pursue it,'' the MEA statement said, adding, “The insistence now of the Chinese side that there is only one LAC is contrary to the solemn commitments made by China in these agreements.''
Recently, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had told Parliament that China had made attempts to transgress the LAC at various places in the western sector and was trying to unilaterally change the status quo.
India and China have had various meetings at the military and diplomatic levels ever since the bloody encounter of the two forces in Galwan in June, which claimed lives on both sides. Most recently, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had met his counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meet and agreed that the two sides needed to continue the dialogue and quickly disengage in all the friction areas. They even issued a five- point action plan in their joint statement, which include directions to troops to continue dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain proper distance and ease tensions.
In fact, even at the sixth round of senior commanders meeting on September 21, the two sides had issued a joint statement, the first such at this level in recent times. MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava had said the meet gave the two sides an opportunity “to have candid and in depth exchange of views on stabilising the situation along the LAC, stop sending more troops to the frontline, refrain from unilaterally changing the situation on the ground, and avoid taking any actions that may complicate the situation.'' This was the first time that there was a representative from the ministry, joint secretary Navin Srivastava, at the military talks.
The two sides had agreed to continue talking, and the next meeting of military commanders as well as the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination of India China Border Affairs are scheduled to be held soon. These talks, however, do not make much headway with utterances from Beijing negating any of the resolves made at the meetings.
“In the last few months, the Chinese side has repeatedly affirmed that the current situation in the border areas should be resolved in accordance with the agreements signed between the two countries. In the agreement reached between external affairs minister and his Chinese counterpart on September 10 also, the Chinese side has reiterated its commitment to abide by all the existing agreements,'' said the MEA. “We therefore expect that the Chinese side will sincerely and faithfully abide by all agreements and understandings in their entirety and refrain from advancing an untenable unilateral interpretation of the LAC.''