After months of worsening tension, India-China have finally come to a five-point agreement to dial down the border issue. After two hours of negotiation on Thursday in Moscow they reached at an understanding that the two sides should “quickly disengage” as the current situation on the border was not in the interest of both the country.
In a series of meeting which was followed after the joint agreement, Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar told his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi that India would not de-escalate until there was complete and verifiable disengagement at all points on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The conversation got a bit heated, and Mr Jaishankar stated that if India-China does not come in peace, then both the nations will suffer. He also said the the “root cause” of the current crisis lay in Chinese forces breaching existing agreements with their massive build-up in April and May and transgressions that forced India to mirror positions and deployments.
Earlier in the week, China’s state-run ‘Global Times’ reported that Chinese troops would “quickly deal a heavy blow to Indian troops, and they will be all annihilated” if Delhi provoked a battle.
India, too, had increased the ante, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh saying “there should be no doubt” about the country’s resolve to protect its territorial integrity.
The statements reflected the reality on the ground: a hostile face-off between troops.
In June this year the two nuclear-armed neighbours fought a deadly clash in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley with batons and stones which left 20 Indian soldiers dead and many injured.
Both countries still have a massive deployment in the region where they have overlapping territorial claims – and overcoming their disagreements was not easy.
What made India-China agree on de-escalate?
Many experts had shown concern over the tension between India-China, and they believe that both the nation agreed to de-escalate because war at this point is not an option even though they were ready to confront each other.
Michael Kugelman, deputy director at the Wilson Center think-tank, stated that “It would have been catastrophic for both countries and the wider region. The economic stakes were too high to risk a war.”
He also believes that Mr Jaishankar served as ambassador in Beijing for many years and have good relationships with the Chinese delegates might have helped as he believed that personal relations play a crucial role in diplomatic negotiations.
Also another possible external factor might be the extreme climatic condition Galwan Valley during winter making it challenging for both the troops.
Ahead of the meeting, Indian troops had occupied ridges overlooking Chinese posts in the Pangong Tso area, giving the Indian side crucial leverage in the discussions.
Moreover, both countries currently have other concerns to deal with. India COVID-19 is rising at an alarming rate while its economy is plunging.
In the case of China, apart from dealing with coronavirus pandemic aftermath, the Chinese economy is still reviving. The tension with the US and host of other is digging a grave for China. Moreover, global rebuke of its controversial security law in Hong Kong is making the situation worse for China.
Experts say that de-escalation and disengagement is not quickly done as said. Moreover, the current agreement lacks clarity as it does not mention about the LAC – the de facto boundary separating the countries. Several points along LAC are till disputable areas where troops of both the sides are deployed, so it lacks clarity as to how the issue will be resolved.
Moreover, both the countries want to maintain the status quo which is yet again is confusing as to how this will be resolved.
Yesterday, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat of Indian armed forces told the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence that they are ready for any eventuality, even as tensions between India-China remain high following “provocative behaviour of Chinese frontline troops” along the LAC, which serves as the de facto border between the two countries.
General Rawat told the committee that the armed forces had taken adequate steps and measures to thwart any attempt by China to further change or alter the status quo along the LAC.
According to higher officials from the army, De-escalation will take time, and it will take longer in the current scenario.
India’s action over the past few months concerning Chinese app ban, cutting off technology, investments and projects — was a clear warning to China how border issues could impact the overall relationship.