NEW DELHI: India and China held their first round of talks between senior military officers on Saturday at the Chushul-Moldo point along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh with sources expressing “satisfaction at the positive trajectory” in the bid to resolve the month-long troop confrontation in the Himalayan region.
There was no official word on the outcome of the marathon meeting between the
led by 14 Corps commander Lt-General Harinder Singh and the Chinese side headed by South Xinjiang Military District commander Major General Liu Lin.
But sources said the meeting was “positive” and could eventually lead to restoration of status quo ante in eastern Ladakh, with both sides de-inducting soldiers and heavy weaponry from the confrontation sites at the northern bank of Pangong Tso (Tso means lake), Gogra-Hot Springs area and Galwan Valley region in a phased manner. The points lie along the LAC with Chinese troops having intruded into the Indian side at places leading to counter-mobilisation.
The Indian delegation crossed over into Chinese territory for the meeting, at the Chushul-Moldo border personnel meeting (BPM) point in eastern Ladakh, at about 11am. The dialogue, interspersed by lunch, carried on till the evening. The accommodative note in Indian and Chinese statements on Friday had indicated the talks would not be a failure though more heavy lifting could be needed.
“It may require some more military as well as diplomatic meetings for the actual de-escalation to take place,” said a source. The meeting on Saturday came a day after joint secretary-level diplomatic talks between India and China reiterated that the two countries should not allow their differences to turn into disputes, in tune with the strategic guidance given by
PM Narendra Modi
The earlier almost dozen meetings between the opposing commanders, including three at the Major-General level, had failed to break the deadlock with both the armies sticking to their respective positions.
The People’s Liberation Army is strongly opposed to India’s construction of feeder roads and bridges in what it calls “disputed areas” like Pangong Tso and the Galwan Valley region. The Indian side is equally determined that Chinese vacate the intrusions and is also committed to developing the border infrastructure.
The Indian side has stressed that its infrastructure build-up was “well within Indian territory”. The Indian Army has asked the PLA to restore status quo ante by withdrawing its troops, who have dug in and built fortifications after physically occupying the “Finger-4 to Finger 8” (mountainous spurs) area on the northern bank of Pangong Tso as well as the Galwan Valley region and Gogra-Hot Springs area.
The PLA, in particular, is upset over India’s attempt to construct a feeder road joining “Patrolling Point-14” in the Galwan Valley to the 255-km Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) as well as a bridge in the region. The infrastructure upgrade will provide Indian troops with swifter and easier access to areas like the strategically-important Karakoram Pass, Depsang plains and Galwan Valley, among other areas, to challenge the PLA’s relatively uncontested dominance in the region till now.
The mobilisation of PLA troops in mid-April and then the multiple intrusions into Indian territory in eastern Ladakh in early-May in a well-coordinated manner across a broad frontage on the LAC initially caught the Indian Army off-guard.
India, of course, has now more than matched the PLA build-up by moving forward troops of the Leh-based 3 Infantry Division into their “operational alert areas” as well as pumping in several additional battalions into Ladakh from other regions. “We are prepared for the long haul if it comes to that. We have enough acclimatised troops along the LAC in eastern Ladakh now,” said another source.
In Video:Eastern Ladakh standoff: India, China hold top-level military talks in Moldo