Updated: August 20, 2020 10:58:34 am
The Working Mechanism for Consultation & Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) will meet Thursday to try and find a way to resolve the military standoff along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.
Hopes of a breakthrough are low given the rigid Chinese stance during diplomatic and military talks in the past month.
A government official told The Indian Express that the WMCC meeting is taking place Thursday but there are currently no plans to hold the next round of the Corps Commander level meeting. If there is an inclination to move forward during the WMCC meeting, the next engagement will be decided thereafter, the official said.
This was discussed during the high-level consultative meeting on China held on Monday, the official said, adding that the Indian stance and position on the issue were also discussed. While the end-goal remains the restoration of status quo ante as of April, the official said that any process will have to recognize ground realities on both sides.
According to the official, while it is understood that even the process of de-escalation has to be stepwise, the Chinese insistence on equal rearward movement by both armies is not acceptable. The Chinese have better roads and infrastructure on their side which allows them to mobilise quickly, the official said, and some element of time has to be built in this stepping-back to make it fair to both armies.
This will be the fourth meeting of the WMCC since tensions erupted early May, with clashes between soldiers of both armies. In addition, five rounds of Corp-Commander level meetings, a phone conversation and a meeting between the two Special Representatives, two meetings of the Indian Ambassador to China with top party and military officials, and several division and brigade commander level meetings have taken place during this period.
The response of the Chinese interlocutors in the last few meetings has been very rigid, the official said, and not much has come out of the meetings between the military commanders in Ladakh and at the diplomatic level in Beijing.
According to the official, after the fourth round of Corps Commander level meeting on July 14, there has been no further movement from the Chinese side on the ground and the situation remains tense.
“After the July 14 meeting, China has added more troops and equipment to all three sections at Depsang and Trig Heights, across PP14 at its base camp, across Hot Springs and Gogra, same at Pangong Tso north and south banks, same at Fukche, and doubled across Chumar and Demchok. There are reports that PLA is building infrastructure at breakneck speed,” the official said.
A senior military officer said there has been no new major additional Chinese deployment on the LAC “in the past couple of weeks,” and the PLA strength “remains at around three divisions plus, along with a Special Forces brigade”.
The Indian deployment, the officer said, is commensurate with the Chinese deployment, with plans having been put in place to keep additional troops on the border during the winter months.
“We have started constructing prefabricated shelters for accommodation of troops and storage of equipment under the Operational Works, for which material can keep moving till the passes close in November. This gives us still some time, as it is clear that we are staying there till the Chinese don’t go back,” the officer said.
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