New Delhi on Thursday said the way to resolve the India-China standoff would be for both countries to avoid unilaterally changing the status quo on the border, while the two sides continue discussions for complete disengagement, PTI reported.

Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said at a virtual press briefing that disengagement of troops is a complex process, and will need mutually agreed “reciprocal actions” between the two sides. “Even as two sides work towards complete disengagement in all friction areas, it is at the same time also necessary to ensure stability on the ground,” he said. “The latest senior commanders meeting should be seen in this overall context.”

The sixth meeting of the commanders of the two sides took place on September 21. The next day, both countries said in a joint statement that they have resolved to stop sending more troops to the frontline. The statement added that both sides will refrain from unilaterally changing the situation on the Line of Actual Control. But the statement did not mention if the senior commanders of the Indian and Chinese military reached a breakthrough on disengaging troops and restoring the status quo ante.

Srivastava said on Thursday that the recent dialogue gave the commanders a chance to have a “candid and in-depth” exchange of views on stabilising the situation along the Line of Actual Control. “The way ahead will be to refrain from making any attempts to unilaterally change the status quo, while the two sides continue their discussions to achieve complete disengagement in all friction areas and to ensure full restoration of peace and tranquillity in the border areas,” he said.

The seventh round of dialogues will be held soon, Srivastava added.

The border standoff

Military heads of the two countries have engaged in several rounds of talks over the last three months after 20 Indian and unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed in violent clashes in Galwan Valley in June. But these talks have so far failed to break the impasse.

Last week, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had told the Rajya Sabha that China continues to illegally occupy approximately 38,000 sq km of land in Ladakh.

On September 10, Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit. The two ministers agreed on a five-point plan to defuse tensions between the countries and said the current situation in the border areas of Ladakh was “not in the interest of either side”. They agreed, therefore, that the border troops of both sides should “continue their dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain proper distance and ease tensions”.

On September 7, China had accused India of “outrageously firing warning shots” in a new confrontation on the southern bank of Pangong Tso lake, describing it as “a serious military provocation”. India had denied this, saying that Chinese troops had attempted to close in on Indian forward positions along the Line of Actual Control and had “fired a few rounds in the air”. This was the first confirmed use of firearms on the Line of Actual Control by troops in more than four decades.

On September 1, the Ministry of External Affairs had said that Chinese troops engaged in “provocative action” on August 31, while discussions between ground commanders were underway. This was followed by earlier moves on the intervening night of August 29 and 30, which, the Indian Army said, were “provocative” military movements to change the status quo.