Despite many rounds of talks, the disengagement process is yet to be fully completed at the border. (File photo)
NEW DELHI: India on Saturday once again asked China during a top-level military dialogue to disengage at Gogra and Hot Springs as well as restore "unhindered patrolling rights" in Depsang, which can then be followed by de-induction of troops and the consequent de-escalation along the frontier in eastern Ladakh.
There was no official word on the outcome of the 12th round of corps commander-level talks, which lasted for nine hours on Saturday, but there are indications the two sides could be close to at least completing the stalled troop disengagement at patrolling points (PPs) 15, 17 and 17A in the Hot Springs-Gogra-Kongka La area in a phased manner.
“Nothing definite, however, can be said until the two delegations get back and are properly debriefed by their respective politico-military hierarchies, with a possible joint statement being issued in a day or two,” said a source.
The dialogue, led by 14 Corps commander Lt-General P G K Menon and the South Xinjiang Military District chief Major General Liu Lin, on the Chinese side of the Chushul-Moldo border meeting point, concluded at 7.30pm after beginning at 10.30am on Saturday.
Sources said India made it clear that the "sequential process" of disengagement, de-induction and de-escalation was critical to resolve the 15-month troop confrontation, which was triggered by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) making multiple intrusions across the Line of Actual Control in early-May last year.
“Gogra, Hot Springs and Depsang were all raised by the Indian delegation, which also included additional secretary (East Asia) Naveen Srivastava from the external affairs ministry. India will pull back troops if an agreement is achieved on all three, beginning with the first two. The bottom-line for India remains restoration of the status quo as it existed in April 2020,” said a source.
The abject stalemate in the 11th round of talks, which was held way back on April 9, was evident in the fact that India and China did not even issue a joint statement after it, unlike the previous rounds.
But a series of diplomatic and lower-level military talks through hotlines and other means since then have raised expectations that the troop disengagement at Gogra and Hot Springs could be finalized, with initial talks on resolving the strategically-located Depsang Bulge area.
Disengagement at Gogra and Hot Springs is seen as a “low-hanging fruit”, while Depsang is a much tougher nut to crack. The PLA has been blocking Indian troops patrols in the `Bottleneck’ area of Depsang, which is 18-km inside what India perceives to be its territory, from going to their traditional PPs-10, 11, 11A, 12, and 13 in the region since April last year. “China should accept the patrolling rights of India in Depsang as a first step till a proper resolution takes place,” said the source.