Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and Indian Minister of Foreign Affairs Suprahamanam Jaishankar pictured during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in Moscow, Russia on September 10, 2020.
Russian Foreign Press Service Bulletin | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
SINGAPORE – India and China issued a joint statement regarding the ongoing border dispute in the Himalayas, calling for dialogue and disengagement to ease tensions between the two nuclear rivals.
This came after the two countries’ foreign ministers met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Moscow on Thursday.
The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said the discussions were “frank” and “constructive” between India’s Subrahmaniyam Jaishankar and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
“The two foreign ministers agreed that the current situation in the border areas is not in the interest of either side. Consequently, they agreed that the border forces of both sides would continue their dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain an appropriate distance and reduce tensions.” The statement said. She added that the two countries have agreed to abide by existing agreements and protocols on border affairs between China and India and to avoid measures that could lead to escalation of tensions.
“The two sides also agreed to continue dialogue and communication through the mechanism of the Special Representative on the issue of the boundary between India and China,” the statement said.
Forces from both sides have been locked in a border dispute since May and in June, a deadly clash killed 20 Indian soldiers. China did not disclose whether its forces suffered casualties. Earlier this week, New Delhi and Beijing accused each other of firing in the air during renewed standoff at the unspecified border as opposition soldiers are stationed in close proximity.
Firearms are limited in border areas under a previous deal that experts said highlighted the severity of the confrontation this week.
Neither side is willing to back down
The Eurasia Policy Risk Advisory Group expects a 60% probability of a scenario in which the confrontation continues with periodic clashes and skirmishes, causing limited losses.
“So far, there have been multiple rounds of talks, meetings between special representatives of the border issue, a meeting of defense ministers, a meeting of foreign ministers, and none of these negotiations have succeeded in halting new skirmishes,” said Achilles Berry, analyst for South Asia, and Kelsey Broderick, analyst. Asia in the Eurasia Group, in a note on Thursday, and they made clear that neither side is likely to give up an inch of envisioned territory given the current state of bilateral relations.
Politically, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot hold back, according to analysts.
“He has already been criticized because first, he failed to acknowledge the Chinese incursions, then secondly, he mentioned that China did not enter Indian territory (despite having entered),” they said, adding that any further loss of territory to India would offend “Modi’s image as a strong man protecting India”.
Chinese President Xi Jinping will not retreat either. “Signs indicate that these borders remain hot and confrontations continue as the two sides prepare for a long and entrenched conflict”.
“This is not to say that diplomacy will not continue. Commander-level talks as well as diplomatic meetings will likely continue,” they added.
The Eurasia Group also predicts that there is a 25% chance of successful diplomatic negotiations leading to de-escalation and a 15% chance of a deeper military conflict on the border.