India and China’s foreign ministries held discussions on Wednesday to resolve the ongoing Himalayan border crisis between the two countries, the Hindustan Times reported on Thursday.
Last week, the dispute caused a deadly clash between Indian and Chinese border troops in the Galwan Valley of northeastern India’s Ladakh state. At least 20 Indian soldiers and an estimated 40 Chinese troops — including commanding officers on both sides — died in the brutal hand-to-hand combat. China denies that the casualty estimate is accurate but has refused to offer an official number.
Naveen Srivastava, joint secretary of India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), and Hong Liang, director-general of boundary affairs in the Chinese foreign ministry, met virtually on Wednesday to discuss the border conflict. The two diplomats convened as part of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China border affairs.
“The Indian side conveyed its concerns on the recent developments in eastern Ladakh, including on the violent face-off in Galwan Valley area on June 15 that had resulted in casualties,” the MEA said in a statement released after the meeting.
India and China “reaffirmed that both sides should sincerely implement the understanding on disengagement and de-escalation that was reached by the senior [military] commanders on June 6,” the statement said.
“The two delegations agreed that implementation of this understanding expeditiously, in accordance with the bilateral agreements and protocols, would help ensure peace and tranquillity in border areas and the development of [a] broader relationship between the two countries,” the statement added.
According to the Times of India (TOI), although Wednesday’s meeting appeared productive on paper, top Indian government officials remain unconvinced that China genuinely desires peace in the border dispute.
“While the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China border affairs met, there is no illusion in the highest levels of the Indian government about the Chinese disengaging in any meaningful manner,” the TOI wrote on Thursday.
According to the report, senior figures in the Indian government believe China “wants to fundamentally change the way India sees itself and how it deals with the world, by forcibly changing [the] status quo on the ground.”
The Hindustan Times concurred, pointing out that “even as the meeting was underway, China’s defense and foreign ministry kept up a shrill barrage of accusations against India, blaming the Indian side for the Galwan Valley clash and alleging the [Indian] external affairs ministry was behind ‘false reports'” on the conflict.
According to the Hindustan Times, when asked at a press briefing on Wednesday “why China’s foreign ministry was repeating these contentious points amid renewed talks of peace and tranquillity on the border,” ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian responded:
“What I have just said … is meant to clarify the whole situation, tell the truth to everyone. We made the statement because the [Indian foreign ministry] and Indian media have made some false reports.”
China’s allegations against India followed two days after Indian and Chinese military commanders reached a “mutual consensus to disengage” in all “friction areas” along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the official name for their shared border, on Monday.