The Ministry of External Affairs on Tuesday said that India categorically rejects the “so-called unilaterally defined” Chinese interpretation of the Line of Actual Control of 1959 in Ladakh.

“India has never accepted the so-called unilaterally defined 1959 Line of Actual Control,” the ministry said in a statement. “This position has been consistent and well known, including to the Chinese side.”

The statement came after a report in the Hindustan Times quoted a Chinese foreign ministry statement saying that China abides by the Line of Actual Control as proposed by Premier Zhou Enlai to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in a letter dated November 7, 1959 – a position that New Delhi has consistently rejected since it was first spelled out 61 years ago.

“Firstly, China-India border LAC is very clear, that is the LAC on November 7, 1959. China announced it in the 1950s, and the international community including India are also clear about it. However, ever since this year, the Indian Army has continued to arrive and illegally cross the border, unilaterally expanding the scope of actual control. This is the source of tension on the border issues.”  

— Chinese foreign ministry

This was the first time in recent years that Beijing has categorically stated that it still goes by the 1959 definition of LAC. But India rejected this stance and said China’s sudden insistence that there is only one LAC was contrary to the “solemn commitments” made by Beijing under various agreements with India in the past.

“Under their various bilateral agreements including the 1993 Agreement on Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the LAC, 1996 Agreement on Confidence Building Measures 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.” 

— Ministry of External Affairs

The MEA quoted Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s remarks on the military standoff in Parliament that blamed the Chinese side for transgressing the Line of Actual Control in various parts of the Western Sector to “unilaterally alter the status quo”. In his speech in Rajya Sabha, Singh said that China had attempted to change the status quo along the LAC with its provocative military manoeuvres and that it continues to illegally occupy approximately 38,000 square kilometre of land in Ladakh.

“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,” the statement said. It also pointed out that this was also reiterated during the talks between External Affairs Minister Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart on September 10.

“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,” the foreign ministry said.

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.

On September 22, both the countries had issued a joint statement about the sixth round of Corps Commander-level talks and said they resolved to stop sending more troops to the frontline. The statement added that both sides will refrain from unilaterally changing situation on the Line of Actual Control.

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”. This was after skirmishes between the two sides early in September.