Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi agreed in a telephone call on Thursday that after the completion of disengagement of troops from in Pangong lake area, both sides should “now quickly resolve the remaining issues along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh”.

The ministers also agreed to establish a communication hotline to continue their dialogue and exchange opinions in a timely manner. This direct telephone line will be in addition to the military hotline between India’s Army’s Director General of Military Operations and China’s Western Theatre Command.

In a 75-minute long conversation, the two sides discussed the situation along the LAC and also issues related to overall India-China relations, according to a statement by India’s foreign ministry. Jaishankar told Wang that it was necessary for New Delhi and China to work towards an early resolution of remaining problems, as a “prolongation of the existing situation was not in the interest of either side”.

The foreign minister reiterated India’s concerns, which he first expressed when the two ministers met in Moscow in September, about the “provocative behaviour and unilateral attempts of the Chinese side to alter status quo”. He noted that the bilateral relations have been impacted severely over last year, and observed that even though the boundary question may take time to resolve, “disturbance of peace and tranquility including by violence, will inevitably have a damaging impact on the relationship”.

The minister recalled that during his meeting with Wang in Moscow, both ministers had agreed that the situation in the border areas was not in the interest of either side and decided that the border troops of both sides should continue their dialogue, quickly disengage and ease tensions.

Jaishankar noted that both sides had kept their word, and had maintained continuous communication since then through both the diplomatic and military channels. This had led to progress as both sides had successfully disengaged in the Pangong Tso Lake area earlier this month, the minister said.

“EAM [External Affairs Minister] emphasised that both sides should now quickly resolve the remaining issues along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh,” the MEA quoted Jaishankar as saying. “EAM said that once disengagement is completed at all friction points, then the two sides could also look at broader de-escalation of troops in the area and work towards restoration of peace and tranquility.”

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The foreign minister added that it was necessary to disengage at all friction points, as that “alone will lead to the restoration of peace and tranquility and provide conditions for progress of our bilateral relationship”.

Almost nine months after the standoff began, both countries announced earlier this month an agreement on for soldiers to disengage on either side of the Pangong Lake in eastern Ladakh, where the first clashes occurred in May 2020. Thousands of soldiers from the rivals sides have been deployed on the Himalayan frontier since April on the Line of Actual Control.

The disengagement process along the Pangong Tso began on February 10, as military commanders began pulling out troops, tanks and artillery from the area in the first step towards full withdrawal. On February 20, India and China held commander-level talks to discuss pulling back from other areas.

The Ministry of External Affairs said that Chinese minister Wang had on his part,expressed satisfaction at the progress made so far. He said that the disengagement was an important step forward for restoration of peace and tranquility in border areas, according to the statement, adding that “ both sides should make efforts to consolidate outcomes”.

‘Must cherish hard-won progress’

In a separate statement released by the Chinese foreign ministry, Wang called upon both sides to “improve the border control mechanism” as well as “advance the border negotiation process” to resolve the boundary dispute, according to official Xinhua news agency.

He said “both sides must cherish the current hard-won situation, jointly consolidate existing results, maintain the momentum of consultation, according to the statement.

Wang claimed that it was India that had “vacillated and even moved backward over its policy on China, which has affected and disrupted bilateral pragmatic cooperation”.

He added, “Experience over the past few decades has repeatedly demonstrated that acts of highlighting differences will not help resolve the issue, but erode the foundation of mutual trust.”

Both sides should also improve the border control mechanism, advance the boundary negotiation process and continuously accumulate mutual trust to achieve peace and tranquility in the border areas, Wang said.