Trying to put behind the 73-day Doklam military stand-off last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday intervened to issue “strategic guidance” to their respective militaries.

Build “trust” and have a mechanism to “prevent” incidents in the border regions, said a statement issued from Wuhan. This is significant given the fact that the disputed and un-demarcated LAC, the de-facto boundary between the two countries, has been a matter of dispute.

After the 2015 meeting at Xian, China, the two leaders laid down targets—some are still pending—like a hotline at the level of DGMO and greater military interaction along the LAC and also at sea. The two sides conducted a symbolic joint exercise in eastern Ladakh in 2016 and another one on the Chinese side, which were by far the only positives at the LAC.

Today, the two leaders expressed their support for the special representatives (SRs) on the boundary question and urged them to intensify efforts to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement. The SRs have been meeting since 2003. Last week, China changed its representative and tasked its Foreign Minister Wang Yi to replace Yang Jiechi. New Delhi is represented by the National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval. 

As of now, 14 core disputes remain along the LAC, all due to British cartography dictated by fluctuations of its “forward policy” of the 1800s. PM Modi, in September 2014, suggested demarcation of LAC on ground. China, however, was less enthusiastic. On February 2 this year, Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre told Rajya Sabha that Chinese troops did 426 transgressions of the LAC during 2017. This was a huge jump over the 273 transgressions in 2016. The LAC is not marked on the ground and it largely runs along the east-west axis, in contiguity with the Himalayan ridgeline. 

India and China fought a war in 1962. The two had an armed skirmish in 1967 at Nathu La and an eight-month stand-off at Sumdrong Chu in north-western Arunachal Pradesh in 1986.