India, China agree to disengage thousands of border troops

NEW DELHI: The Indian and Chinese foreign ministers agreed that their troops should disengage from a tense border standoff, maintain proper distance and ease tensions in the Ladakh region where the two countries in June had their deadliest clash in decades.
India’s S. Jaishankar and China’s Wang Yi met in the Russian capital on Thursday night and concurred that “the current situation in the border areas is not in the interest of either side,” according to a joint statement issued Friday.
Since last week, the Asian giants have accused each other of sending soldiers into rival territory and firing warning shots for the first time in 45 years, threatening a full-scale military conflict.
The foreign ministers did not set any timeline for the disengagement of tens of thousands of troops who have been locked in a standoff since May, but agreed that “both sides shall abide by all the existing agreements and protocol on China-India boundary affairs, maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas and avoid any action that could escalate matters.”
The disputed 3,500-kilometer (2,175-mile) border separates Chinese and Indian-held territories from Ladakh in the west to India’s eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims in its entirety.
The current standoff is over portions of a pristine landscape that boasts the world’s highest landing strip and a glacier that feeds one of the largest irrigation systems in the world.
Both sides accuse the other of provocative behavior including crossing into each other’s territory, and both have vowed to protect their territorial integrity.
Earlier this week, Jaishankar described the situation along their shared boundary, known as the Line of Actual Control, as “very serious” and said the state of the border cannot be separated from the state of the bilateral relationship.
On Thursday, the two countries agreed that as the situation eases, they should expedite work to conclude “new confidence-building measures to maintain and enhance peace and tranquility in the border areas.”
In a separate statement, Wang said “China-India relations have once again come to a crossroads.”
That statement said Wang “outlined China’s stern position on the situation in the border areas, emphasizing that the imperative is to immediately stop provocations such as firing and other dangerous actions that violate the commitments made by the two sides.”
“It is also important to move back all personnel and equipment that have trespassed. The frontier troops must quickly disengage so that the situation may de-escalate,” it quoted Wang as saying. - AP