Hopes rekindled for de-escalation in Ladakh sector at BRICS
New Delhi: Following a "conversation" during the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping have agreed "to direct their relevant officials to intensify efforts at expeditious disengagement and de-escalation" in the Ladakh sector. Foreign secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra revealed this during a late-evening media briefing in South Africa.
During the conversation, Modi expressed India's concerns regarding the unresolved issues along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the western (Ladakh) sector and emphasised the importance of maintaining peace and tranquility in the border areas and respecting the LAC for normalising the India-China relationship.
This marks the first time that Modi and Xi have discussed the military situation at the LAC in the Ladakh sector, which began more than three years ago. While they briefly exchanged pleasantries at the G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, in November last year, this conversation is more substantive. Prior to the military tensions in 2020, the leaders held a detailed bilateral Summit near Chennai in 2019.
The foreign secretary clarified that the interaction between the two leaders was a "conversation" and not a formal meeting. Modi also had interactions with other BRICS leaders during the Summit.
Though live footage showed Modi and President Xi talking as they approached the stage for the BRICS leaders' Joint Address in Johannesburg, the actual conversation might have taken place earlier.
India has consistently maintained that China's large troop deployment at the LAC in the Ladakh sector in 2020 and the reluctance of Chinese troops to withdraw from friction points violate border pacts from the 1990s. India insists that normalising ties with China requires the withdrawal of Chinese troops from all friction points and the restoration of the status quo as of March 2020.
Notably, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval conveyed to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during the BRICS NSAs' Meeting in Johannesburg that Chinese military actions at the LAC in the Ladakh sector over the past three years had eroded strategic trust and the foundation of the Sino-Indian relationship.
While India has invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to attend the G20 Summit in New Delhi next month, the Chinese side has not yet confirmed his visit to New Delhi.