Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar on Wednesday spoke to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi over phone for the first time since the month-long standoff between troops at several points along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh and Sikkim began.
On Monday, it appeared to have reached a peak after Indian and Chinese soldiers got into a scuffle, and 20 Indian personnel, including a colonel, were killed in clashes at Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh. Though some reports have said there around 40 Chinese soldiers died during these clashes, there is no official confirmation yet.
Jaishankar said the incident in Galwan was a “pre-meditated and planned action” by China, which led to the violence. He added that the border situation would now be handled in a responsible manner and both sides would disengage.
“It [China’s actions] reflected an intent to change the facts on ground in violation of all our agreements to not change the status quo,” the minister said, according to a statement by the foreign ministry. It added that Jaishankar conveyed the government’s protest against the clashes in the strongest terms.
“He recalled that at the meeting of senior military commanders held on June 6, an agreement was reached on de-escalation and disengagement along the Line of Actual Control,” the statement said. “Ground commanders were meeting regularly to implement this consensus throughout the last week. While there was some progress, the Chinese side sought to erect a structure in Galwan valley on our side of the LAC. While this became a source of dispute, the Chinese side took pre-meditated and planned action that was directly responsible for the resulting violence and casualties.”
Jaishankar told his Chinese counterpart that the “unprecedented development” will also have a serious impact on the bilateral relationship.
“The need of the hour was for the Chinese side to reassess its actions and take corrective steps,” the statement said. “The two sides should scrupulously and sincerely implement the understanding that was reached by the senior commanders on June 6. Troops of both sides should also abide by the bilateral agreements and protocols. They should strictly respect and observe the Line of Actual Control and should not take any unilateral action to alter it.”
Neither countries would in future take any action to escalate the matter, but ensure peace and tranquillity as per bilateral agreements and protocols, India said.
Meanwhile, China also said that both countries have agreed to de-escalate the situation at the border in a fair way as soon as possible, Reuters reported. Wang told Jaishankar that India should severely punish those responsible for the conflict and control its frontline troops.
During the phone call, Wang emphasised that both sides should strengthen communication and coordination through existing mechanism to resolve the differences.
His comments came hours after Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that the country does not want to see any more clashes with India. He repeated the accusation that Indian troops had crossed the border and attacked Chinese forces. Zhao claimed that India’s intrusion led to “a serious physical confrontation between both sides that caused deaths and injuries”. Beijing, however, has so far not confirmed the extent of casualties on its own side.
Zhao had added that India and China will continue talks and negotiation to de-escalate tensions.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the sacrifice of Indian soldiers killed in a “violent face-off” with Chinese troops would not go in vain. “India wants peace but is capable of giving befitting reply, if instigated,” Modi said. “The nation must be proud of its warriors who laid down their lives while killing enemies.”
Both China and India had blamed each other for the clashes on Tuesday too. India’s Ministry of External Affairs said that the face-off at Eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley was due to China’s attempt to unilaterally change the status quo in the area. China, however, accused India of crossing the border twice and attacking its troops, and China’s Foreign Ministry asked India not to take unilateral actions.
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Tensions between the two countries heightened in May after Chinese troops clashed with the Indian Army at several points along the Line of Actual Control.
The dispute between India and China centres around a strategic bridge being built near Daulat Beg Oldi, a military post south of the Karakoram Pass. China has reportedly asked India to stop building infrastructure even on its own side of the LAC. New Delhi, on the other hand, has asked Beijing to maintain the status quo on the border.
Earlier in May, there were reports of China pitching tents near river Galwan, which was also a flashpoint between New Delhi and Beijing during the Sino-Indian war of 1962. Both India and China had deployed additional security forces in the area amid heightened tensions.