EAM S Jaishankar and Chinese FM Wang Yi meet in Indonesia, discuss border issues

External affairs minister S Jaishankar on Thursday met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Indonesia and discussed “outstanding issues” related to the dragging military standoff in Ladakh sector that has taken bilateral ties to an all-time low.

The two leaders held an hour-long meeting on the margins of a G20 foreign ministers’ meeting being hosted in Bali by Indonesia, the current president of the grouping of the world’s 20 largest economies.

“Began my day in Bali by meeting FM Wang Yi of China. Discussion lasted one hour,” Jaishankar tweeted.

“Focused on specific outstanding issues in our bilateral relationship pertaining to the border situation. Also spoke about other matters including students and flights,” he said.

Jaishankar said he and Wang also had “shared perspectives on the international situation and its impact on the G20 deliberations”.

There was no immediate official readout on the meeting, the fourth between Jaishankar and Wang since the standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) began in April-May 2020.

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A brutal clash at Galwan Valley in June 2020 resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese troops – the first fatalities at LAC in 45 years – and the two sides have currently arrayed about 50,000 troops, each, in the Ladakh sector.

Jaishankar has repeatedly said that the standoff at LAC was the outcome of China violating agreements and protocols for border management by massing large numbers of troops in the Ladakh sector and unilaterally attempting to alter the status quo. He has also said that bilateral ties cannot be normalised till peace and tranquillity is restored at the border.

After the standoff began, Jaishankar and Wang first met on the margins of a meeting of foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Moscow in September 2020. A joint statement issued at the time had said the two ministers agreed the situation in the border areas is not in the interest of either side, and that they agreed border troops of both sides “should continue their dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain proper distance and ease tensions”.

Despite numerous rounds of diplomatic and military talks, the two sides only agreed to pull back frontline troops from the north and south banks of Pangong Tso lake and at Gogra. They are yet to make headway on several other friction points such as Hot Spring and Depsang Plains.

Both leaders subsequently met on the margins of a SCO heads of states’ meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, in September 2021, and also held talks when Wang visited New Delhi on March 25.

Jaishankar is expected to hold several bilateral meetings with counterparts from other countries on the margins of the G20 foreign ministers’ meet in Bali.