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SOURCE: Hindustan Times

India on Tuesday said it had never accepted the unilaterally defined 1959 Line of Actual Control (LAC) and pointed out that various agreements with China committed both countries to a common understanding of the alignment of the boundary.

The external affairs ministry was reacting to a report in Hindustan Times, which cited China’s foreign ministry as saying that Beijing abides by the LAC proposed by premier Zhou Enlai to prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru in a letter dated November 7, 1959 – the first time in decades the Chinese clearly outlined its position on the notional boundary by reiterating a position that India has consistently rejected since it was first made 61 years ago.

“India has never accepted the so-called unilaterally defined 1959 Line of Actual Control (LAC). This position has been consistent and well known, including to the Chinese side,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.

Srivastava pointed out that under several bilateral agreements – including the 1993 Agreement on Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity along the LAC, the 1996 Agreement on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) in the military field, the 2005 Protocol on Implementation of CBMs, and the 2005 Agreement on Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question – India and China have “committed to clarification and confirmation of the LAC to reach a common understanding of the alignment of the LAC”.

He added, “Therefore, the insistence now of the Chinese side that there is only one LAC is contrary to the solemn commitments made by China in these agreements.”

The external affairs ministry also blamed the Chinese side for lack of progress in the process for clarifying and confirming the boundary for almost two decades.

“In fact, the two sides had engaged in an exercise to clarify and confirm the LAC up to 2003, but this process could not proceed further as the Chinese side did not show a willingness to pursue it,” Srivastava said.

The Indian side also pointed to an apparent dichotomy in the position adopted by the Chinese side – insisting on abiding by the LAC of 1959 while stating in recent discussions on the ongoing border standoff that the issue should be resolved on the basis of the existing agreements.

“In the last few months, the Chinese side has repeatedly affirmed that the current situation in the border areas should be resolved in accordance with the agreements signed between the two countries,” Srivastava said.

He pointed out that even in the agreement reached between external affairs minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during their talks on the margins of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting in Moscow on September 10, the Chinese side “has reiterated its commitment to abide by all the existing agreements”.

The external affairs ministry said the Indian side has “always respected and abided by the LAC”, and defence minister Rajnath Singh had stated in Parliament recently that “it is the Chinese side which by its attempts to transgress the LAC in various parts of the Western Sector, has tried to unilaterally alter the status quo”.

Srivastava said: “We therefore expect that the Chinese side will sincerely and faithfully abide by all agreements and understandings in their entirety and refrain from advancing an untenable unilateral interpretation of the LAC.”

Since early May, India and China have been engaged in a standoff in Ladakh sector of the LAC that has taken bilateral ties to an all-time low. Both sides have mobilised more than 50,000 troops each in the region and are now preparing to dig in for the harsh winter.

Twenty Indian soldiers were killed on June 15 in a brutal clash in Galwan Valley, which also resulted in unspecified Chinese casualties. Troops of both sides have also fired warning shots on several occasions since late August, the first time arms have been used along the LAC since 1975.

Several rounds of talks between the corps commanders and the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs have been unable to end the impasse in the disengagement process, though the military commanders agreed at their last meeting that both sides wouldn’t deploy any more troops to the frontline. The WMCC is set to hold another meeting soon.