NEW DELHI (BLOOMBERG) – India will insist that China demolish recent construction and withdraw soldiers from a disputed border area as the two neighbors start talks to end a stalemate that began in April, officials with knowledge of the matter said.
The South Asian nation, at a meeting of senior defence officials on Saturday (June 6), will offer to remove construction done at the border in May and revert to the level of military deployment as of April as long as China reciprocates, the officials said, asking not to be identified, citing rules on speaking to the media. The meeting is taking place at the Chushul-Moldo Military Garrison along the disputed border in Ladakh, they said.
The armies are currently on high alert at two locations along the Line of Actual Control – the 3,488km unmarked boundary between India and China. Additional troops have been rushed to the border by both sides, the officials said. They are facing each other at the Galwan River, which was one of the early triggers of the 1962 India-China war, and at the disputed Pangong Tso – a glacial lake at 14,000 feet in the Tibetan plateau, portions of which are claimed by both.
India won’t stop building roads and bridges inside its territory, the officials said. An Indian Army spokesman was not available for a comment.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration doesn’t want to get drawn in an increasingly hostile campaign started by US aimed at isolating China globally over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. A group of senior lawmakers from eight democracies including the US have launched a new cross-parliamentary alliance to help counter what they say is the threat China’s growing influence poses to global trade, security and human rights.
Still, the border dispute between India and China is likely to simmer.
The meeting will be a “first step to understand what China wants. Simultaneous incidents indicate China is acting as per a plan that has Beijing’s clearance,” said Mr Jayadeva Ranade, member of the National Security Council Advisory Board and head of the Centre for China Analysis & Strategy. “India should not hurry to reach a compromise.”
The reasons for the current tensions remain unclear, but India’s decision in 2019 to bring Kashmir under direct federal control drew an angry response from China, similar to that of neighbouring Pakistan, which has close ties with Beijing.
China has said it was unacceptable that India “continued to undermine its territorial sovereignty.”
In addition, India has accelerated building border infrastructure, which it says isn’t aimed at any particular country, but rather the development of remote areas.
The nation has nearly completed 74 strategic roads along borders, with plans afoot to finish 20 more by next year. A bridge in the Galwan sector in Ladakh has also been objected to by China, a government official who didn’t want to be identified, said.