India and China should redouble efforts for “complete disengagement” of troops and restoring peace and tranquillity on the Line of Actual Control as part of efforts to normalise ties, external affairs minister S Jaishankar told his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on Thursday.

Astana [Kazakhstan], Jul 04 (ANI): External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar meets his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of the annual Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit, in Astana on Thursday. (ANI Photo) (S Jaishankar-X)

At a meeting with Wang on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in the Kazakhstan capital of Astana, Jaishankar laid out India’s imperatives for resolving the border issue, including respecting the LAC, and reiterated that “mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interest” will continue to guide bilateral relations.

“Discussed early resolution of remaining issues in border areas. Agreed to redouble efforts through diplomatic and military channels to that end,” Jaishankar said on X after meeting Wang, also a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo.

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“Respecting the LAC and ensuring peace and tranquillity in the border areas is essential. The three mutuals – mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interest – will guide our bilateral ties,” he added.

This was the first meeting between Jaishankar and Wang in almost a year, though they had a brief encounter on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in Germany in February.

A readout from the external affairs ministry noted the two ministers agreed that prolonging the current situation in the border areas is not in the interest of either side, and said that Jaishankar had “highlighted the need to redouble efforts to achieve complete disengagement from the remaining areas in Eastern Ladakh and restore border peace and tranquillity in order to remove obstacles towards return of normalcy in bilateral relations”.

The two ministers “agreed to continue and step up” meetings of diplomatic and military officials to take forward discussions to resolve the remaining issues at the earliest, the readout said.

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In this context, Jaishankar and Wang agreed that the Working Mechanism on Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) should hold an early meeting. Jaishankar reiterated that the bilateral relationship is “best served by observing the three mutuals – mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests”, the readout said.

Jaishankar also emphasised the “importance of fully abiding by relevant bilateral agreements, protocols, and understandings” reached by the two sides in the past, and that the LAC “must be respected and peace and tranquillity in the border areas always ensured”, the readout added.

The readout further noted that the meeting had focused on finding an early resolution of the remaining issues along the LAC to “stabilise and rebuild bilateral relations”.

The ministers also discussed the global situation and Jaishankar extended to Wang India’s support for China’s presidency of the SCO in 2025.

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There was no immediate word from the Chinese side on the meeting, which was held against the backdrop of continuing tensions between India and China over the military standoff on the LAC, which is into its fifth year and has taken bilateral ties to a six-decade low.

Jaishankar and Wang last held a bilateral meeting on the margins of various Asean-related meetings in Jakarta on July 14, 2023 and Thursday’s meeting was an opportunity for the two sides to take stock of the situation along the LAC and continuing efforts to address remaining “friction points” such as Depsang and Demchok.

Jaishankar has maintained that the overall relationship with China can’t be normalised without peace and tranquillity on the border. He has also blamed China for the current situation, saying on numerous occasions that it violated border management agreements and massed troops along the LAC.

However, even at his meeting with Jaishankar last July, Wang had said the two countries should “not define overall relations with specific issues” – a reference to China’s position that the LAC standoff should be put in its “appropriate place” in the overall relationship.

China has lobbied in recent weeks for the resumption of direct flights to India and the easing of restrictions on issuing visas to Chinese nationals, especially technical personnel deputed to work with manufacturing units in India. The Indian side has given no indication it intends to address these matters, with officials saying all such issues are linked to the situation in Ladakh sector, where both sides have arrayed about 50,000 troops each.

Despite dozens of rounds of diplomatic and military talks, India and China have been unable to resolve “friction points” such as Depsang and Demchok.

A deadly clash in Galwan Valley in June 2020, which killed 20 Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese troops, sent ties plummeting and the Indian side also has concerns about China’s adversarial activities across the region, such as the deployment of surveillance vessels and efforts to gain access to ports and key facilities in neighbouring countries.