Indian, Chinese officers meet to resolve border stand-off; Army chief discusses situation (Roundup)

New Delhi, April 23 (IANS) Indian and Chinese local military commanders Tuesday held a flag meeting for the second time to resolve the stand-off over incursion by Chinese troops into the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh even as New Delhi said it has asked Beijing to maintain the status quo that existed before the April 15 intrusion.

Army Chief General Bikram Singh met Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and discussed the Chinese incursions into Indian territory.

Gen. Singh assured Vohra and Abdullah that the situation would be tackled.

His visit comes in the wake of Chinese troops setting up a post inside Indian territory, about 10 km from the LAC, the de-facto border between India and China. The Chinese had set up the post April 15.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said there was no need for diplomatic-level talks to resolve the issue.

“There is no need for diplomatic-level talks,” Khurshid said, and added that local military commanders from both sides would hold discussions “to work out a solution at flag meetings, as they have been doing in the past”.

The external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said India and China had “differing perceptions” of the Line of Actual Control in the Depsang area of the western sector of the India-China boundary and the incursion by Chinese troops had led to a “face-to-face” situation between their troops.

“We see this as a face to face situation between the border personnel of the two sides due to differences on their alignment of the LAC. We have asked the Chinese side to maintain status quo in this sector, by which I mean status quo prior to this incident,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.

The term “face-to-face” is referred to the 2005 protocol for implementing CBMs along the LAC. According to the protocol, when border personnel of the two sides come face to face, they are to exercise self-restraint and take all necessary steps to prevent the situation from escalating, he said.

Terming the incident as a “localized event”, the spokesperson said that “overall, the India-China border area continues to remain peaceful”. Both sides have peacefully resolved similar incidents in the past “and we hope to resolve this incident too peacefully”, the official added.

Beijing has denied any incursion across the Line of Actual Control, which is a notional line.

Indian and Chinese armies Tuesday held a brigadier-level flag meeting to resolve the issue. They had held a flag meeting last week too, but it failed to break the deadlock.

Flag meetings are a mechanism to deal with emergent situations. They supplement the border personnel meetings that are held twice a year at various points along the India-China border.

Listing out steps taken by India after the incident was reported April 15, Akbaruddin said Gautam Bambawale, joint secretary (East Asia), who chairs the working mechanism for consultation and coordination on India-China border affairs, spoke to his counterpart, who is the director general border affairs of the Chinese foreign ministry.

“Subsequently on April 18, there was a flag meeting and following that on April 18 evening, the foreign secretary (Ranjan Mathai) expressed the concerns of the government of India to the ambassador of China in Delhi,” he said.

“In our view, we see this as a situation of differing perception,” said Akbaruddin.

Khurshid also said that India and China have set up a mechanism to resolve border issues. He also reiterated that both sides have made progress in their bilateral ties and it is not necessary to raise a question on such issues.

The minister added that India will take “necessary action” in the matter.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony had said Monday that India will take “every step” to protect its interests to resolve the situation arising out of the alleged incursion by Chinese troops into Indian territory.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying had said Monday that “China’s frontier troops have been abiding by the agreement between the two countries and abiding by the LAC agreed by the two countries”.

“Our frontier troops have been patrolling on the China’s side of LAC,” Hua had said, adding: “Our troops are patrolling on the Chinese side of the LAC and have never trespassed the line.”

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