India and China on Wednesday signed a Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) aimed at maintaining peace and tranquility along the 4,058-km Line of Actual Control (LAC), though they failed to achieve a breakthrough on liberalised visa, as New Delhi strongly protested Beijing’s stapled visas issued to its citizens from Arunachal Pradesh.
The 4-page, 10-clause BDCA was signed by the two sides after three hours of discussion between visiting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on Wednesday. After this, Singh called the discussions “productive and fruitful”.
The two leaders were meeting one-on-one for the second time this year.
The takeaway from the new BDCA, which has drawn heavily from the two nations’ earlier agreements of 1993, 1996, 2005 and 2012 on border Confidence Building Mechanisms (CBMs), are the proposals for opening a hotline between their military headquarters, non-tailing of each others’ patrols along the LAC, holding of border personnel meetings at all sectors, apart from organising small-scale tactical exercises between the armed forces of the two nations along the LAC.
These are for encouraging better understanding between the forces of the two nations, apart from dealing with situations arising out of the April-May Debsang Bulge-type incursion by the People’s Liberation Army troopers, who camped 19-km inside the Ladakh region for 21 days and returned to their side of the LAC following frenetic military and diplomatic parleys.
“The pact will not help prevent a Debsang Bulge or any such incident. Who can give such an assurance for the future, without delineation of the LAC and settlement of the border dispute,” a senior military officer said about the BDCA. Both Delhi and Beijing have blamed the frequent incursions into their territory on their differing perception of the LAC.
However, the agreement reiterated in its preamble that “neither side shall use its military capability against the other side and that their respective military strengths shall not be used to attack the other side”.
It also reaffirmed that “neither side shall use or threaten to use force against the other side by any means nor seek unilateral superiority.” However, the two sides “shall carry out border defence cooperation on the basis of their respective laws and relevant bilateral agreements”.