India will not lower its guard along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China while maintaining border peace in sync with the “Wuhan” spirit, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in New Delhi on Sunday.
A report appearing in the The New Indian Express stated that nearly a month after talks with her Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe, Sitharaman said both sides recognised that the broad decisions arrived at the informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan should govern management of the border.
“Absolutely”, she said when asked whether India is still on guard and not lowering it despite the Wuhan spirit. The report further stated that at the Wuhan summit in April, Modi and Xi resolved to open a new chapter in ties, and directed their militaries to boost coordination along the nearly 3,500 km Sino-India border, months after the most serious military face-off in decades between the two nuclear-armed neighbours in Doklam triggered fears of a war.
Asked whether the decision of Modi and Xi at the summit to issue strategic guidelines to their militaries to maintain peace along the border is working, she said, “I want to believe it is working”. At the same time, she added that as Defence Minister of the country she was conscious of the fact that the she will have to keep the border guards alert.
When asked to comment on Army Chief General Bipin Rawat’s comments earlier in the year that the time has come for India to shift focus to its northern border from the western frontier, she said, “I cannot afford to say, at the cost of one border, I will be more alert, more ready in another. A border is a border. I have to be conscious of both my borders. I will also have be conscious of my sea. It is less talked about,” she said.
Last month, Sitharaman and Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe held extensive talks in New Delhi during which they decided to work towards firming up a new bilateral pact on defence cooperation and agreed to increase interactions between their militaries at various levels to avoid Doklam-like standoffs.
“There are several areas where the border is not completely defined and demarcated (read Indo-China border). As a result, the perception of where the border is one thing for us and completely differnt for them. So they come to a point where we think they should not be coming and we go to a point where they think we should not be going. So, periodically this becomes cause for the flare-up,” she said.