The recent round of high-level military dialogue between India and China has kindled hopes of to ending the 22-month-long standoff in certain remaining friction points in eastern Ladakh, two months after the last round of such parleys failed to yield any significant outcome.
Indian and Chinese Corps Commanders met for the 15th time on the Indian side of the Chushul-Moldo border personnel meeting point in eastern Ladakh on March 11.
The Indian delegation at the talks that lasted 13 hours was led by Lt Gen Anindya Sengupta, the Commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps, while the Chinese delegation was headed by Major General Yang Lin, Commander of the South Xinjiang Military District. At the Corps-Commander level talks, India pressed for early disengagement of troops in remaining friction points, including resolution of pending issues in Depsang Bulge and Demchok.
In Depsang Plains, which is close to India’s strategic Daulat Beg Oldie base in the north, Chinese troops are blocking Indian soldiers from accessing five traditional patrolling limits—PP10, PP11, PP11A, PP12 and PP13—at an area known as the Bottleneck, which is 18km inside the LAC.
In Demchok, some Chinese have pitched tents on the Indian side of the LAC, and have refused to vacate it. The eastern Ladakh border standoff between the Indian and Chinese militaries erupted on May 5, 2020, following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas. Both sides gradually enhanced their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry.
The affirmation in the statement that resolution of the outstanding issues would facilitate progress in bilateral relations appeared to be a reflection of India’s consistent position on overall ties between the two sides
As a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides completed the disengagement process last year in the north and south banks of the Pangong Lake and in the Gogra area.
Each side currently has around 50,000 to 60,000 troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the sensitive sector. The Government refers to eastern Ladakh as Western Sector.
“They reaffirmed that such a resolution would help restore peace and tranquillity along the LAC in the Western Sector and facilitate progress in bilateral relations,” a joint statement, released simultaneously in Delhi and Beijing, said after the talks. “The two sides also agreed to maintain the security and stability on the ground in the Western Sector in the interim. They agreed to maintain dialogue via military and diplomatic channels to reach a mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues at the earliest,” it said.
The affirmation in the statement that resolution of the outstanding issues would facilitate progress in bilateral relations appeared to be a reflection of India’s consistent position on overall ties between the two sides. India has been maintaining that peace and tranquillity along the LAC was the key to the overall development of the bilateral ties. The position was emphasized by Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla again.
“We have made it clear to China that peace and tranquillity in the border areas are essential for the development of our relationship. Development of India-China relationship has to be based on ‘three mutuals’ — mutual respect, mutual sensitivity, and mutual interest,” Shringla said. Former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda (Retd) said, “It is good that both sides are continuing to discuss the disengagement process.
“Given what has happened in the last two rounds, it is difficult to predict any outcome. But, if there is any lesson from the ongoing Ukraine conflict, it is that festering tensions should not be left unaddressed. China should realize this,” he said. A joint statement issued by India and China after the January 12 dialogue had talked about a consensus on consolidating previous outcomes and taking steps for security and stability on the ground.
The statement, issued the next day, struck a conciliatory note in contrast to the separate statements issued by the two sides after the 13th round of talks on October 10 — while the Indian Army had said the PLA did not agree to its suggestions, China had accused India of “unreasonable and unrealistic demands” in an unusually aggressive statement.
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