India-China stand-off: How Doval-Wang talks helped in de-escalation at the LAC

India-China stand-offAjit Doval (pictured) and Wang Yi had earlier met in 2018 and 2019. Both are special representatives of their respective countries for boundary talks. (Photo: The Indian Express)

In order to resolve the on-going border tension along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the special representative-level talk on Sunday was proposed by the Chinese side. According to a report by The Indian Express, along with special representative talks, the Chinese side proposed activation of other channels to resolve the border issue in the wake of the Galwan Valley incident, in which 20 Indian Army personnel were killed.

To de-escalate the situation, the report said, the Indian side suggested diplomatic and military channels, including the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC).

However, the Chinese side insisted on special representative-level talks to make any meaningful forward movement, according to the report. After which the meeting between National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and was scheduled, on Sunday, the report added.

Both Doval and Wang agreed that it was “necessary to ensure complete disengagement of troops” along the LAC at the earliest and “de-escalation from border areas for full restoration of peace and tranquility”.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry, in a statement after the SR-level talks on Sunday, said both sides had in-depth discussions on easing the current situation along the LAC and “reached positive common understandings”.

Doval and Wang had earlier met in 2018 and 2019. Both are special representatives of their respective countries for the boundary talks. During their last meet in December 2019, they decided to be “frank to each other” on issues irrespective of the public rhetoric on either side, as reported by The Indian Express.

They both agreed that they should be the final authority for approval of a resolution, while working-level mechanisms, be it the WMCC or military commanders, can engage each other on any border problem, the report added.

To resolve the border tension, India was negotiating through XIV Corps Commander Lt General Harinder Singh on the ground, Joint Secretary (East Asia) Naveen Srivastava leading the Indian WMCC team, and Ambassador to China Vikram Misri in Beijing. On the Chinese side’s insistence for talks between special representatives of both the countries, India saw merit in the rationale that any commitment made at the lower level may have limitations, as reported by The Indian Express.

Wang is far more powerful than previous Chinese foreign ministers because he became a State Councillor in 2018—another reason for SR-level talks. In China’s hierarchy-conscious system, Wang has more authority than his predecessors in the foreign minister’s position. His work during the 2017 Doklam crisis, when he was only foreign minister, is believed to be one of the reasons for his promotion following Xi’s re-election in 2018. And his proximity to Xi clearly shows merit in engaging with him to defuse the LAC situation.

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