NEW DELHI: Even as India wrestles with Chinese intrusions along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, foreign minister S Jaishankar is scheduled to meet his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at a virtual Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral on June 22.
The meeting would have been unremarkable but for the fact that Indian and Chinese troops are facing off at four points on the LAC in Ladakh and one point in north Sikkim, only now beginning the process of disengagement after sustained diplomatic and military talks between the two sides.
While the military talks are happening on the ground, the diplomatic heavy-lifting is being done in New Delhi and Beijing.
After the first round of fisticuffs between Indian and Chinese troops on Pangong Tso on May 5-6, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla called in the Chinese ambassador, Sun Weidong, for a rare tough message. On May 8, national security adviser Ajit Doval is believed to have spoken to Chinese state councillor Yang Jieche on the Chinese intrusion at Pangong.
However, the very next day saw scuffles between Indian and Chinese soldiers at Naku la in northern Sikkim. Since then, officials on both sides have been in touch, say sources, both in New Delhi and Beijing, leading finally to a high-level military commanders’ meeting at Chushul-Moldo on June 6. According to high-level sources, India wants a return to the status quo before May 5. India is also pushing for established patrolling protocols at Pangong, which is the scene of repeated violations given the LAC runs through the lake.
According to reports, the two sides have been disengaging slowly on the ground in Galwan valley. But the Indian concern is centred around Pangong, where the Chinese have built structures that prevent Indian patrolling activities eastwards of Finger 4 towards Finger 8. There has been no discernible movement in that area. It is not yet clear whether foreign minister S Jaishankar would attend the RIC meeting if the Chinese withdrawal in Pangong has not started by then.
In 2017, the Indian side had informed China that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would not attend the Brics summit in Xiamen if Chinese troops did not step back to their side of the boundary. It was one of the factors that compelled China to disengage from the face-off site in Bhutanese territory.