On Wednesday, India and China withdrew from the latest round of diplomatic negotiations on the border impasse in the Ladakh area with little to show for it other than an agreement to convene the next round of talks between top military commanders as soon as possible. The Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs held a virtual meeting against the backdrop of mounting evidence of China building infrastructure and villages in disputed sections of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), as well as a lack of progress on disengagement at hot spots like Hot Springs and Depsang.
The two sides remembered the agreement reached by Jaishankar and Wang at their meeting in Dushanbe, according to the Indian statement, that military and diplomatic authorities should continue discussions to settle outstanding issues along the LAC. They also discussed developments since the military commanders’ meeting on October 10 and “agreed on the importance of finding an early resolution to the remaining issues” in eastern Ladakh while fully going to abide by bilateral treaties and guidelines to restore peace and tranquillity, according to an Indian statement. According to the Indian statement, the two sides also agreed to continue to “maintain a stable ground situation” and avoid any untoward incidents.
After numerous rounds of diplomatic and military discussions, both withdrew frontline soldiers from the banks of Pangong Lake in February and from Gogra in August, but there has been no more progress on disengagement and de-escalation since then. For more than 18 months, the two sides have been trapped in a military standoff, driving bilateral ties to their lowest point in decades. The Indian side has argued that ties can only be normalized until other sites of contention, such as Hot Springs and Depsang, have been disengaged. China, on the other hand, has advocated for a decoupling of the standoff from the entire bilateral relationship, as well as increased trade and investment links.
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