LAC row: All eyes on India-China commanders’ meeting

NEW DELHI: All eyes are on the next meeting of Indian and Chinese military commanders with the five-point agreement for defusing border tensions arrived at in Moscow expected to bring about a degree of immediate disengagement even if a wider de-escalation takes more time.

The crucial test of the joint statement that external affairs minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi
 hammered out is in PLA pulling back from the Line of Actual Control
. A verifiable disengagement process can ease tensions along the LAC and reduce the possibility of further flare-ups and this is seen as a good outcome.

A lack of tangible progress, however, will increase the prospects of conflict as troops are placed in positions precariously close to each other with tempers and suspicions running high. It is felt that it will only be a matter of time before a more serious clash breaks out, given the unpredictable situation on the ground.

Here, the Indian government has now made its position plain enough. The comments of senior government sources and the ‘on record’ statements of the Chief of Defence Staff 
Gen Bipin Rawat
 have made India’s red lines clear, underlining the Indian army is “not under-prepared anywhere” and that military options are on the table in dealing with the border situation.

The toughening of the Indian position has come about in the wake of pro-active manoeuvres by Indian troops over August 29-30 when they took control of difficult heights along the south bank of the Panging Tso (lake) while also re-positioning troops on the spurs on the north bank. The move has given India an advantage and brought troops in really close proximity with one another.

The focus on the unfolding situation is tinged with some hope that matters will not take a turn for the worse, given that Wang Yi is a senior leader and also state councillor. His comments the day after the meeting with Jaishankar also point to a desire to scale down tensions. At the same time, given the sustained Chinese aggression in the past few months, facts on the ground need to change.