BEIJING/NEW DELHI – China and India agreed to ensure a complete disengagement of troops in the disputed border areas as soon as possible, the foreign ministries of both countries confirmed on Monday.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs said Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi discussed the situation by telephone on Sunday, engaging in a “frank and in-depth exchange of views” and agreeing to the prompt disengagement of border troops along the Line of Actual Control in place since the Sino-Indian War of 1962, Sputnik reported.
According to an Indian readout of the agreed-upon measures, the two sides committed to “ensure at the earliest complete disengagement of the troops along the LAC and de-escalation from India-China border areas for full restoration of peace and transparency”.
Additionally, both sides agreed to “complete the ongoing disengagement process along the LAC expeditiously” and to “ensure a phased and stepwise de-escalation” of tensions in the border area.
“They reaffirmed that both sides should strictly respect and observe the Line of Actual Control and should not take any unilateral action to alter the status quo and work together to avoid any incident in the future that could disturb peace and tranquility in border areas,” the statement added.
Sunday’s talks were said to have been Doval and Wang’s first contact since the start of the conflict in May, with Beijing and New Delhi communicating via multiple other channels amid the tensions.
The affirmation of intent follows reports by the Indian Army earlier Monday that Chinese troops had been seen withdrawing from the contested Himalayan valley which saw brutal hand-to-hand fighting last month, with the Indian side announced to be “verifying” the extent of Chinese withdrawal.
Also on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters that “positive progress” had been made toward disengagement, adding that he hoped “that the Indian side will go with the Chinese side to implement the consensus reached by both sides with practical actions”.
The China-India border conflict led to the deaths of up to 20 Indian troops and the injury of over 70 others following a deadly confrontation in the Galwan Valley, with India estimating Chinese losses at 43 casualties. Several servicemen from both sides were also said to have been captured and later released.
China accused Indian servicemen of illegally crossing the LAC and staging a provocation, while India has said that the fighting was the result of a unilateral Chinese attempt to ‘change the consensus’ regarding the LAC.
The skirmishes caused the worst crisis in relations between the Asian giants in decades, with India moving to ban Chinese products, and the government canceling several contracts with Chinese entities on the construction of railways, roads, and telecommunications infrastructure.