External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar (left) and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi (right) with officials from both the countries during a meeting in Dushanbe on September 16, 2021

‘Both sides agreed that a prolongation of the existing situation is not in the interest of the either side as it is impacting the relationship in a negative manner,’ said a Ministry of External Affairs statement

China must not view India through the lens of its ties with other countries, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar told Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, as the two leaders met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Dushanbe on Thursday.

Both officials discussed the ongoing impasse at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh which they said had left relations at a “low ebb”. A statement issued after the meeting, held two months after they last met in Dushanbe at the SCO Foreign Minister’s meeting in July, said the Ministers agreed to more talks by military and diplomatic officials to resolve the “remaining issues on disengagement”.

“Both sides had agreed that a prolongation of the existing situation was not in the interest of either side as it was impacting the relationship in a negative manner. EAM therefore emphasised that the two sides should work towards early resolution of the remaining issues along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh while fully abiding by bilateral agreements and protocols,” a Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) statement issued early on Friday said.

According to the MEA, Mr. Jaishankar once again stressed that peace and tranquillity along the LAC, that depends on resolving all remaining issues of the 17-month-long standoff, was an “essential basis” for progress in bilateral relations, but it is understood the two Ministers did discuss global developments, including Afghanistan, during their talks.

Mr. Jaishankar said that “Asian solidarity” depended on the example set by India-China relations and in a possible reference to growing U.S.-India ties, added that China should “avoid viewing our bilateral relations from the perspective of its relations with third countries”. The remarks are significant as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is addressing the SCO via videoconference on Friday, is travelling to Washington next week to attend the Quad summit with leaders of U.S., Australia and Japan, where their common position on China’s actions in the Indo-Pacific will be watched most closely.

‘Moving Towards De-Escalation’

A statement from China’s Foreign Ministry in Beijing quoted Mr. Wang as saying that communication between the Foreign Ministries and militaries of both sides, in addressing the LAC issue, had been “effective” and that the situation was moving in the direction of “de-escalation”. He said China hoped India would “move in the same direction” and push for a stabilisation of the situation and “gradually move from emergency response toward regular management and control”.

“We should consolidate the achievements of disengagement and strictly abide by the agreements and common understanding reached between the two countries,” he said, adding that both countries as two major economies “should continue to adhere to the strategic consensus of not posing a threat to each other and treating each other as opportunities for development”.

Indian and Chinese officials are due to hold the 13th round of military talks to resolve the situation at the LAC that began in April last year, when China amassed its troops along the boundary in Eastern Ladakh and transgressed into several areas, leading to the Galwan clashes in which 20 Indian soldiers, and at least four Chinese soldiers, were killed.

Of those areas, the two sides completed disengagement of troops in the Galwan Valley, both banks of Pangong Tso and Gogra, but friction points remain to be resolved at Hot Springs, Demchok and Depsang. Both sides have, for the first time, put in place temporary “buffer zones” to avoid further clashes.

The meeting between the Foreign Minister’s came two days after the Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat said that India must prepare to deal with its “adversaries” on both fronts: with China and Pakistan. He had also called China’s moves on Afghanistan, and “making friends” with Iran and Turkey, a “jointmanship between the Sinic and Islamic civilisations”, and asked whether that could lead to a “clash of civilisations” with the West.

Apparently contradicting the CDS’s comments, Mr. Jaishankar told Mr. Wang that India did not believe in the “clash of civilisations theory” (famously propounded by U.S. academic Samuel Huntington). “EAM conveyed that India had never subscribed to any clash of civilisations theory. He said that India and China had to deal with each other on merits and establish a relationship based on mutual respect.” the MEA statement said.