India and China on Wednesday held the 26th meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation & Coordination on Border Affairs (WMCC) in Beijing during which the two sides reviewed the situation along the Line of Actual Control and discussed proposals for disengagement from the remaining areas in eastern Ladakh.
This was the first WMCC meeting to be held in person since the 14th meeting held in July 2019, a statement from India’s foreign ministry said.
The statement, however, remained silent on the restoration of the status quo as it was before the Chinese intrusions in eastern Ladakh in May 2020. Military veterans have for months questioned India’s continued silence on the restoration of status quo.
They have accused the Narendra Modi government of ceding further territory by agreeing to the creation of demilitarised “buffer zones” within India-claimed lines as part of the disengagement process with the Chinese.
The joint secretary, East Asia, led the Indian delegation during Wednesday’s meeting while the Chinese team was led by the director-general of the boundary and oceanic affairs department of the ministry of foreign affairs.
“The two sides reviewed the situation along the LAC in the western sector of India-China border areas and discussed proposals for disengagement in the remaining areas in an open and constructive manner, which would help in restoration of peace and tranquility along the LAC and create conditions for restoration of normalcy in bilateral relations,” the Indian external affairs ministry said in the statement.
Both sides agreed to hold the 18th round of military talks at an early date, the statement added. During the 17th round of military talks in December last year, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army had demanded the creation of a buffer zone of 10-15km inside India-claimed lines as part of negotiations for disagreement from the Depsang Plains, sources in the security establishment said. India, the sources said, had rejected the PLA’s demand.
Chinese troops have so far disengaged partially from the Galwan Valley, Pangong Lake, Hot Springs and Gogra — with Indian soldiers too retreating by equal distances to create the buffer zones.
The sources said that in the buffer zones, Indian soldiers have retreated from their own land and the PLA troops have backed off from India-claimed lines while still remaining there.
The Chinese are yet to disengage from the strategic Depsang Plains where they are said to have been trenched 18km inside India-claimed lines and have built permanent infrastructure including roads, surface-to-air defence systems, radars and observation towers.
Overall, they are estimated to have taken over close to 1,000sqkm of India-claimed territory in Ladakh.
“India has already lost so much territory by agreeing to buffer zones at multiple transgression points because of the Modi government’s capitulation to Chinese aggression and bullying,” a veteran told The Telegraph.
“The Prime Minister has never named China even once since the border standoff in 2020 and his government has remained silent on the restoration of status quo along the LAC. By not admitting the Chinese intrusion, the government has given the Chinese army a free pass to alter the status quo,” the veteran said.