The 26th meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) was held on Wednesday. This was the first in-person meeting since July 2019. The Indian and Chinese diplomats discussed various issues related to the stand-off at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The meeting remained inconclusive as nothing significant in terms of resolution of the deadlock came out of it. But India succeeded in reminding China about where the key to normal ties actually lies.  The most remarkable feature of this diplomatic exchange was that India sent out a blunt message to China over the LAC standoff, insisting that disengagement of frontline troops alone will help restore normalcy in bilateral ties. That the status quo ante of April 2020 must be restored was another message that the Indian side gave. The message given by the Indian diplomats is quite significant as this was not only focused on resolving the border standoff but it went beyond that in a much broader sense.  In fact, the Indian officials categorically told the Chinese counterparts that the normal bilateral ties between New Delhi and Beijing hinge upon the resolution of the LAC standoff at the earliest. And it also depends on complete peace along the border. In fact, China does not want the border issue to be linked to the bilateral diplomatic relations with India. Beijing is insistent upon restoring the normal relations with India, keeping in view the slowdown that it is reeling under in the wake of the pandemic that affected Beijing’s economy badly. It is a different matter altogether that China continues to paint a rosy picture about its economy, which is completely a false impression.  The former Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi was of the view that the bilateral ties should not be dependent upon the LAC issues. But India has consistently maintained that peace and tranquility along the LAC are critical for the overall development of bilateral relations with China. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on many occasions in the past remarked that India would not agree to any attempt to change the LAC unilaterally by China. He has been saying that New Delhi’s relations with Beijing are not normal and there would be on compromise on core issues which include obviously the border dispute and standoff. Jaishankar’s clear message to China has been that no normal ties could be in place without properly addressing the LAC standoff. So in line with what Jaishankar has been saying, the Indian side insisted on resolving the standoff LAC and linked it to the overall normal bilateral ties between New Delhi and Beijing. This round of diplomatic talks over the LAC standoff failed to break the deadlock. But the Indian side succeeded in giving a blunt message to China that its desire to maintain bilateral ties with India will remain unfulfilled without complete peace along the LAC. In fact, India has been emphasizing on restoring the pre-April 2020 status quo ante along its LAC with China. The Indian side still continues to insist on restoring the status quo ante of April 2020. There is no compromise on or dilution in that stand. It is good that the officials and diplomats in this round of the meeting reminded the Chinese side of its demand of status quo ante of April 2020 as well. India needs to continue to give the message to China that it is not afraid of its military might that Xi Jinping tried to display by means of reshuffle of his top military commanders. Xi, a fortnight back, also addressed the troops of PLA deployed along the LAC, asking them to be in the battle-ready mode. But India has made it clear through message that it is not going to be cowed down by all these tactics. The meeting that took place today 22 February was aptly and rightly used by the India side to signal this message to China, even though there was no breakthrough in discussions on the proposal for disengagement.    

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