Galwan Valley face-off: MEA cites 1996, 2005 pacts to explain refrain from use of firearm; here's what the agreements actually say

The first agreement between India and China was signed in 1993 and related to border disputes and maintenance of peace until final resolution. But what does the treaty actually say on peace and wartime SOPs.

FP Staff June 19, 2020 22:43:43 IST
Galwan Valley face-off: MEA cites 1996, 2005 pacts to explain refrain from use of firearm; here's what the agreements actually say

Whether or not the Indian soldiers, who faced the brunt of Chinese incursion in Galwan Valley recently, were armed sufficiently has become a topic of political mudslinging between the Centre and the Opposition.

Opposition sticks to its claim that the army personnel were unarmed at a forward border post despite tensions stewing from several weeks, whereas the Centre claims otherwise, stating that they did have weapons but refrained from opening fire to respect a treaty signed in 1996 and in 2005.

Meanwhile, many others yet questioned the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar's claims stating why were the soldiers asked to adhere to the very treaty that China disparaged, while being bludgeoned to death.

Some also pointed towards China's own repeated breaches of the signed agreements in questioning the government's response, while others noted that the said articles in the treaties referred to peace-time SOPs and not the norms during violent clashes.

Galwan Valley faceoff MEA cites 1996 2005 pacts to explain refrain from use of firearm heres what the agreements actually say

Representational image. PTI

Jaishankar's single line reply to his detractors invokes agreements signed under the previous Congress governments.

The first agreement between India and China was signed in 1993 and related to border disputes and maintenance of peace until final resolution. But what does the treaty actually say on peace and wartime SOPs.

"In case of contingencies or other problems arising in the areas along the line of actual control, the two sides shall deal with them through meetings and friendly consultations between border personnel of the two countries. The form of such meetings and channels of communications between the border personnel shall be mutually agreed upon by the two sides."

But the agreement also mentions that neither side should transgress the Line of Actual control.

"Neither side shall use or threaten to use force against the other by any means. No activities of either side shall overstep the line of actual control."

It also stated, "In case personnel of one side cross the line of actual control, upon being cautioned by the other side, they shall immediately pull back to their own side of the line of actual control."

This agreement, the first to have thawed India-China ties on paper after the Indi-China war, was signed under the Congress government lead by PV Narsimha Rao. When it was deemed 'not enough' to ensure lasting peace, the governments of the two countries signed another agreement in 1996, which Jaishankar also referred to.

This agreement made it incumbent upon both sides to not use their armies against each other.

"Neither side shall use its military capability against the other side. No armed forces deployed by either side in the border areas along the line of actual control as part of their respective military strength shall be used to attack the other side, or engage in military activities that threaten the other side or undermine peace, tranquility and stability in the India-China border areas."

The death of 20 soldiers in this case, by stone pelting and physical combat, points to a different interpretation or a complete disregard to the above by the Chinese side.

The 1996 agreement also categorically mentioned that neither side were to use firearms against each other.

"Neither side shall open fire, cause bio-degradation, use hazardous chemicals, conduct blast operations or hunt with guns or explosives within two kilometers from the line of actual control." It is this part, mentioned within Article VI of the 1996 treaty that is cited in explaining why firearms were not used at the border.

However, the same agreement also makes it binding upon the two governments to respect the Line of Actual Control, not deploy heavy artillery against each other, and maintain communication about any border infrastructure.

On the subject of face-offs, the agreement also specifies use of maximum self restraint, and the pointer against not using fire arm was in the same spirit. It obviously did not envisage a situation where blunt force will be used to deliberately cause major injury and even death.

"If the border personnel of the two sides come in a face-to-face situation due to differences on the alignment of the line of actual control or any other reason, they shall exercise self-restraint and take all necessary steps to avoid an escalation of the situation. Both sides shall also enter into immediate consultations through diplomatic and/or other available channels to review the situation and prevent any escalation of tension."

The 2005 agreement further mirrored the principles laid down in the 1996 treaty, further adding modalities to settle the border dispute. It too laid down procedure to avoid a violent situation.

"Pending an ultimate settlement of the boundary question, the two sides should strictly respect and observe the line of actual control and work together to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas," it said.

Reports defy almost all of the above pointers as both sides have heavy deployment at the border despite efforts underway to diffuse the situation.

Latest media reports, citing satellite images, suggest that despite talks being underway to disengage, there is a heavy troop buildup on the Chinese side, with massive construction equipment in tow. The Economic Times report that despite agreeing to maintaining a temporary no-man's land, the People's Liberation Army remains deployed in Indian territory near Patrol Point 14.

BR Deepak, an expert on Sino-India relations and professor at the Centre for Chinese and South East Asian Studies of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, echoed similar views. He told News18 in an interview that Article IX of the same agreement was to do with the right of either side to seek clarifications from the other side in case it felt that the agreement was not being followed in spirit.

"Chinese side repeatedly abused this article of the agreement. We know that they arduously expanded infrastructure on their side of the border, against the spirit of the agreement, but when India tried to follow suit, they used this article to warn Indians that the agreement was not being followed," he said.

The clash in the Galwan Valley is the biggest confrontation between the two militaries after their 1967 clashes in Nathu La when India lost around 80 soldiers while the death toll on the Chinese side was over 300.

The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488-km-long LAC. China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet, while India contests it.

With inputs from PTI

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