NEW DELHI :
India on Thursday said dialogue was the only way forward to resolve outstanding disputes with China and urged Beijing to sincerely engage with New Delhi to lessen tensions that have been at an unprecedented high since May.
Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava however said the blame for heightening tensions between the two countries lay with China – “a direct result of actions taken by the Chinese side that sought to effect the unilateral change of the status quo.”
The spokesperson’s comments came as Indian and Chinese military commanders were continuing their dialogue for the fourth consecutive day to defuse tensions that had spiked over the weekend after Chinese soldiers tried to open a new front in the current faceoff between the two sides by attempting intrusions along the south bank of Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh. Tensions are already high over China occupying what is seen as Indian territory on the north bank of the Pangong Tso lake.
“The ground commanders are still holding discussions to resolve the situation. We reiterate the consensus reached between the two Foreign ministers and Special Representatives that the situation on the border should be handled in a responsible manner and either side should not take any provocative action or escalate matters,” Srivastava said.
“Now the way ahead is negotiations both through the diplomatic and military channels the Indian side is is firmly committed to resolving all outstanding issues through peaceful dialogue. We therefore strongly urge the Chinese side to sincerely engage the Indian side with the objective of expeditiously restoring peace and tranquility in the border areas” through complete disengagement and de-escalation, Srivastava said.
The comments came on a day Indian army Chief Manoj Mukund Naravane arrived in Ladakh to review the latest situation after Indian troops took positions on strategic heights on mountains on the south bank of Panging Tso lake over the weekend.
“The Chief of Army Staff is on a two-day visit to Leh to review operational preparedness in Ladakh region,” a person familiar with the matter said.
The moves have given the Indian army an edge over the Chinese – especially since the current Indian positions on the south bank of Pangong Tso lake overlook key Chinese posts across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) border. On the opposite north bank too, India has over the past few days consolidated its position.
Naravane’s visit coincides with another round of talks on Thursday between Indian and Chinese military officers to ensure tensions do not trigger any clashes. A violent clash in June had left 20 killed on the Indian side. China did not reveal the numbers of its dead.
The Indian army’s moves over the weekend were defensive in nature, a person familiar with the matter said and they came after Chinese soldiers tried to open a new front by trying to intrude into the south bank of the lake. This was an area always under Indian control and never seen as disputed, the person cited above said.
On the north bank, Chinese troops were ensconced on the heights of Finger 4, one of eight mountain spurs jutting into the lake and were refusing to vacate their positions. Finger 4 has been seen as Indian territory with the Indian perception of the Line of Actual Control border lying eight kilometers further to the east at Finger 8.
India has held position upto Finger 4 but patrolled upto Finger 8 while Chinese say that their perception of the LAC lies at Finger 4. They have traditionally held till Finger 8 and patrolled upto Finger 4. But all that changed in May when the Chinese pushed upto Finger 4 and took over the ridgelines though they have vacated positions at the base of Finger 4.