India and China on Tuesday agreed to hold the next round of talks between senior military commanders to continue the slow-moving disengagement process along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Officials from the two sides, during the 24th meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs held virtually, reviewed the LAC situation and agreed to “continue the discussions through diplomatic and military channels to resolve the remaining issues along the LAC at the earliest so as to create conditions for restoration of normalcy in bilateral relations,” the Ministry of External Affairs said.
“In this context, they agreed to hold the next (16th) round of the Senior Commanders meeting at an early date to achieve the objective of complete disengagement from all friction points along the LAC in the Western Sector in accordance with the existing bilateral agreements and protocols,” the MEA added.
Both sides failed to achieve a breakthrough in the 15th round of talks held on March 11, when they discussed disengagement at Patrolling Point 15 in the Hot Springs area. Officials previously suggested they expected resolution at PP15 at an early date, but differences in Demchok and Depsang, the two other remaining areas, were more pronounced. Following 14 rounds of talks, troops have disengaged at other friction areas including Galwan Valley and Pangong Lake.
The two sides discussed the LAC during Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s March 25 visit to New Delhi. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said then he would describe the “current situation as work in progress, obviously at a slower pace than desirable”. He said the two foreign ministers discussed “expediting” it, and underlined India’s stand that “restoration of normalcy [in relations] will obviously require a restoration of peace and tranquillity.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry in a statement on Tuesday said both had agreed to “resolve the remaining issues in the Western Section of the border in accordance with the principle of mutual and equal security.” Asked about the impact of the border issue on trade and investment, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China “always believes that the boundary question doesn’t represent the whole of China-India relations and we should put it in an appropriate position in bilateral relations and under effective control and management.”
On on-going probes of Chinese telecom majors in India, including Xiaomi, ZTE and Vivo, Mr. Zhao said Beijing “is closely following the situation” and that “the Indian side should act in accordance with laws and regulations and provide a fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies operating in India.”
He said China was “not that interested in the changes of the ranking in trade volume” referring to the U.S. replacing China as India’s biggest trading partner according to India’s Ministry of Commerce data for the financial year 2021-22. He said according to China’s statistics for the calendar year 2021 “China remains India’s largest trading partner” and “the disparity in trade figures published by China and India is a result of different statistical measurement scales”.
“What we care about is whether the Indian side has the will and takes real actions to create a fair, transparent, sustainable and sound environment for bilateral trade and investment, further expand mutually-beneficial cooperation between the two sides and deliver tangible benefits to the two countries and two peoples,” he said.