Why Are India, China Issuing ‘Contradicting Statements’ Over Border Disengagement Process?

India and China are actively involved in the disengagement process after the dangerous military standoff and clash that took place in Galwan Valley. Although the military commandments and diplomatic officials are still negotiating, there are contrasting statements about the withdrawal from Beijing and New Delhi.

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As reported by Hindustan Times, both countries are now considering the option of putting patrolling protocols in place to avoid a repeat of the June 15 Galwan Valley flare-up.

“The first step is total disengagement, then de-escalation with minimum troops being kept by both sides as per 1993-1996 bilateral agreements and then some working mechanism where the patrolling parties of two sides do not clash,” said a senior official, requesting anonymity.

The fifth round of talks between 14 Corps commander Lt-General Harinder Singh and South Xinjiang Military District chief Major General Liu Lin concluded on Sunday. As per the report by Times of India, the Indian side discussed the disengagement process from Pangong Tso lake and Gogra area with the Chinese troops.

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The negotiations were held amid the constant Chinese unwillingness to disengage fully on the north bank of Pangong Tso as well as Patrolling Point (PP)-17A at Gogra, let alone start de-escalation and eventual withdrawal of the over 30,000 soldiers each accumulated by both sides along the Line of Actual Control.

In contrast to this, Chinese ambassador, Sun Weidong said that on the northern bank of Pangong Lake, China’s traditional customary boundary line is in accordance with LAC. There is no such case that China has expanded its territorial claim.

China hopes that Indian troops will follow the agreements and protocols between the two countries and will not illegally cross the LAC. The common efforts of the two countries have led to the withdrawal of forces in most areas, and the tension at the ground level is reducing,” he added.

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Although India’s effort to restore the status quo is still nowhere on the horizon. “The military talks seem to be going nowhere, with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) refusing to fully adhere to the disengagement process finalised during the fourth round of talks on July 14. Higher political-diplomatic intervention may be needed,” said an official.

According to Swaran Singh, professor and chair, Center for International Politics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, it isn’t surprising to see that India and China have different statements as both of them have a different understanding of the LAC.

“It is clear that China has not gone after what India considers LAC, but according to its interpretation of China, it is within its boundary.” Singh believes that it can also be a part of China’s ‘two steps forward and one step’ retreat strategy.

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Indian diplomat, P. Stobdan, said that de-escalation is a long process and the ground reality is better known to the government. “I’m sure that the government is conducting surveys to ascertain the regions where the army has retreated. We need to accept the information coming from them,” he added.

Singh believes that the statement of both countries that they want peace on the border along with the continuous dialogue and efforts at the military commandment level is a good sign.