Foreign Ministers of India & China opt for restraint after border killings

Amid rising nationalist sentiments in the country over the killing of 20 Indian soldiers during a face-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers in Ladakh, India sent out a tough message to China and accused it of taking “pre-meditated and planned action that was directly responsible for the resulting violence and casualties.”

In the telephonic conversation between India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on June 17, Mr Jaishankar conveyed the protest of the Government of India in the strongest terms on the violent face-off in Galwan Valley on June 15, 2020, according to India’s Ministry of External Affairs.

Alluding to the June 6 agreement between senior Military Commanders on de-escalation and disengagement along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the external affairs ministry said that 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. It reflected an intent to change the facts on ground in violation of all our agreements to not change the status quo,” said the ministry in an account of the conversation between the foreign ministers of India and China.

Corrective Steps

Mr Jaishankar conveyed to Wang Yi that this unprecedented development “will have a serious impact on the bilateral relationship.” He stressed that the need of the hour was for the Chinese side to reassess its actions and take corrective steps. “The two sides should scrupulously and sincerely implement the understanding that was reached by the Senior Commanders on 6th June. Troops of both sides should also abide by the bilateral agreements and protocols,” Jaishankar told Wang Yi.  The two sides should strictly respect and observe the line of actual control and should not take any unilateral action to alter it, said the ministry of external affairs.

Beijing, too, sent out a stern message to New Delhi. In the telephonic conversation, Mr Wang Yi, according to the Global Times, conveyed that “India must make sure similar incidents as that on Monday do not happen again. India must also not miscalculate the current situation, and not underestimate China’s determination to safeguard its sovereignty and territory.”

The conversation ended on a seemingly conciliatory note with both sides indicating their desire and intent to not escalate the issue further.    Summing up the discussion, the Ministry of External Affairs: “At the conclusion of the discussion, it was agreed that the overall situation would be handled in a responsible manner, and both sides would implement the disengagement understanding of 6 June sincerely. Neither side would take any action to escalate matters and instead, ensure peace and tranquillity as per bilateral agreements and protocols.”

“The conversation between the foreign ministers of India and China clearly conveys that despite differing interpretations of the sequence of events leading to the killings on the border, the two sides have opted for strategic restraint,” said Manish Chand, Editor-in-Chief, India and the World magazine and India Writes Network. “The operative word in the ministry’s account of the conversation is a shared decision to handle the issue in a responsible manner and not to escalate matters. This is the only sensible way for the two neighbours to maintain peace and stability,” said Mr Chand.

In a measured response, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India wants peace but is capable of giving a befitting reply if provoked. In his first remarks on the border clash between soldiers of the Indian and Chinese army in eastern Ladakh on June 15, Mr Modi underlined that the sacrifices of soldiers along the border “will not go in vain”.

Mr Modi will be looking to firm up political consensus at an all-party meeting he has called on June 19 to discuss the fraught situation along the India-China border. Leaders of various political parties are expected to take part in the virtual meeting.

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