India and China on Wednesday held diplomatic talks in Beijing and discussed proposals for disengagement in the remaining friction points along the LAC in eastern Ladakh in an "open and constructive manner", but there was no indication of any breakthrough.
During the meeting - the first in-person talks since July 2019 - held under the WMCC framework, the two sides agreed to hold the 18th round of military talks at an early date to achieve the objective in accordance with the existing bilateral agreements and protocols, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said.
In Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a separate statement, saying the two sides reviewed the positive progress made in the early stage of China-India border control, affirmed the results of the disengagement of the two border troops in the Galwan Valley and other four locations. They had a candid and in-depth exchange of views on the approach for the next stage of consultation, it added.
The Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) was established in 2012 as an institutional mechanism for consultation and coordination for the maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas.
"The two sides reviewed the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Western Sector of India-China border areas and discussed proposals for disengagement in the remaining areas in an open and constructive manner, which would help in the restoration of peace and tranquillity along the LAC in Western Sector and create conditions for the restoration of normalcy in bilateral relations," the MEA said.
"To achieve this objective in accordance with the existing bilateral agreements and protocols, they agreed to hold the next (18th) round of the Senior Commanders meeting at an early date," it said in a statement.
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The MEA said the two sides agreed to continue discussions through military and diplomatic channels.
"The 26th meeting of the WMCC was held on 22 February 2023 in person in Beijing. This was the first WMCC meeting since the 14th meeting held in July 2019, to be held in person," it said.
The Chinese statement said that the two sides agreed to actively implement the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries to further stabilise the border situation.
The two sides agreed to consolidate the achievements of the negotiations, strictly abide by the agreements reached between them and the spirit of relevant consensus, avoid repeated situation on the ground and ensure peace and tranquility in the border areas, it said.
They agreed to meet each other halfway on the basis of the previous consensus, to speed up the resolution of issues related to the western sector of the China-India border, and to reach a solution acceptable to both sides at an early date, it added.
The two sides discussed other measures to further ease the border situation, and agreed to work further to push the border situation into a stage of normalised management, the Chinese statement added.
Shilpak Ambule, the Joint Secretary (East Asia) from the Ministry of External Affairs, led the Indian delegation. The Chinese delegation was led by Hong Liang, the Director General of the Boundary and Oceanic Affairs Department of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Ambule also called on China's Assistant Foreign Minister Hua Chunying.
The 17th round of military talks was held on December 20 but there was no indication of any forward movement in the resolution of the remaining issues.
A joint statement released after the talks had said that both sides exchanged views in an "open and constructive" manner to resolve the "relevant issues" and described the talks as "frank and in-depth".
The WMCC meeting in Beijing came a week before the G20 foreign ministers' meeting in Delhi. Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang is expected to attend the meeting on March 1 and 2.
In line with a decision taken at the 16th round of military talks, the two sides carried out disengagement from Patrolling Point 15 in the Gogra-Hotsprings area in September last year.
India has been maintaining that its ties with China cannot be normal unless there is peace in the border areas. The eastern Ladakh border standoff erupted on May 5, 2020, following a violent clash in the Pangong lake area.
The ties between the two countries nosedived significantly following the fierce clash in the Galwan Valley in June 2020 that marked the most serious military conflict between the two sides in decades.
As a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides completed the disengagement process in 2021 on the north and south banks of the Pangong lake and in the Gogra area.
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