Not quite Panchsheel. But after four months of a tense and bloody border standoff, India and China have officially reached a five-point agreement to attempt de-escalation.
That seems like a significant step forward. Yet, none of this is new. Clearly, there's not been any breakthrough, and neither was anyone expecting one.
The outcome only has been to talk more, with all the established military and diplomatic mechanisms. That’s clearly not going to be enough to break the stalemate on the ground.
On the ground, the Chinese are amassing more troops. There are now reports of soldiers from the People's Liberation Army swarming near the Finger 3 area on the north side of the Pangong Lake.
After India took over some of the strategic heights on the south side, the Chinese are trying to do the same on the north side.
So, on the ground, it’s a mad scramble to occupy vacant hilltops and ridges in a bid to gain an advantage over the enemy.
The situation at the LAC is on a knife-edge. While the leaderships of both countries may not want a war, evidently neither side seems to be able to take the first step towards de-escalation.
Also, the timing is complicated for Xi Jinping. Next month, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will be holding a key plenum. Here Xi will announce year-long celebrations for the centennial year of the founding of the CCP. Xi wants to be seen as the leader next only to Mao in the pantheon of party luminaries. And he wants to project that he is at his strongest and China is at its strongest when the CCP celebrations begin. So, because of the timing, Xi can ill afford to be seen as making concessions or climbing down.
One big disadvantage has also been the American preoccupation with its elections. Otherwise the United States could have acted as a buffer. All in all, it seems like a pessimistic future, at least in the near term. While neither side wants an all-out war, all indications seem to be that India and China are headed towards a limited conflict.