No normal ties with China without resolving LAC standoff


The latest round of negotiations between the senior military commanders of India and China to resolve the stand-off along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh failed to yield any immediate breakthrough. However, the two sides jointly announced that they had agreed to resolve the remaining issues expeditiously. India and China have agreed to resolve the remaining issues along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh in an «expeditious manner» besides maintaining peace and tranquillity in the border areas, a joint statement said on Tuesday, a day after conclusion of the 19th round of India- China Corps Commander Level Meeting which was held at Chushul-Moldo border meeting point on the Indian side on 13-14 August. “The two sides had a positive, constructive and in-depth discussion on the resolution of the remaining issues along the LAC in the Western Sector. In line with the guidance provided by the leadership, they exchanged views in an open and forward looking manner,” reads a press release by the Ministry of External Affairs.
This is being seen as a positive signal ahead of the BRICS Summit to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Johannesburg, South Africa next week. But amid all this development, China is showing desperation to resume normal bilateral ties with India even without resolving the deadlock along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh region. There is no doubt that India has been rejecting this proposal by China, stating that addressing the border issues is a precondition for normal bilateral relationship between the two countries. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has several times made it clear that restoring normalcy on the border is a precondition for normal ties. During a meeting with China’s Wang Yi, NSA Ajit Doval recently stated that the prolonged crisis “had eroded strategic trust and the public and political basis of the relationship”. So, New Delhi has been sending out a clear message to China that there cannot be normal ties with Beijing until the deadlock along the LAC is resolved. But soon after the latest round of talks, China seems to be again stepping up pressure on India “to separate discussions on the border from those on the wide bilateral relationship”. Though no official statement has come from Beijing, China’s state-backed media outlet The Global Times has published an article advancing the Chinese agenda. The article published in the Chinese state tabloid apparently misinterpreted the term “positive” in the joint statement and said that “China-India border talks show they are realizing that the border issue is not the entirety of China-India ties. The two should not be trapped due to the border issue, and the border issue should not become precondition for the development of China-India ties. In this regard, India has a lot to do.” This should be seen as an attempt by the Chinese government to build a global opinion in favour of its views on restoring normalcy of ties with India. Soon, some statements on this line are expected from the Chinese foreign ministry ahead of the BRICS Summit. China wants to show that the ball is in India’s court for restoring normalcy in ties.
The reality is that the ball is entirely in China’s court. That the latest round of talks could not result in any concrete breakthrough is due to the reluctance of Beijing to restore normalcy on the border. This message needs to be given in a clear manner by India. It is good that the officials are dismissing the article as a piece carrying China’s self-serving views. There are indications that India would counter any such agenda from China if it comes on record. New Delhi needs to continue to remind China in no uncertain terms that it should forget “normal relationship” until normalcy is restored on the LAC. China must announce restoration of the status quo ante as of April 2020 in next rounds of talks.
This is what India has been insisting upon. And, in future India would continue to stick to it. Bilateral relations have been frozen since the outbreak of border tensions in 2020. China, for its part, has called the border crisis an “issue left over from history” and has urged India to separate discussions on the border from those on the wider bilateral relationship. But India has been rejecting China’s position, demanding that without resolving all issues on the LAC there cannot be normalcy in ties. China’s eagerness to see normalcy in ties should be seen in context of its strategy to enter Indian markets and resume all trades with New Delhi to improve its economy.