A day after XIV Corps Commander Lt General Harinder Singh and South Xinjiang Military Region Commander Major General Liu Lin held talks for nearly 15 hours on disengagement of troops along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, sources said the two sides had been able to “break the ice” on the standoff at Pangong Tso.
A senior official of the security establishment told The Indian Express Wednesday: “Earlier, China was not even ready to talk about Pangong Tso. Now we have agreed to discuss not just Finger 4 but Finger 8 too as well… things will be firmed up in subsequent meetings. The signs of resolution are very, very positive.”
In Pangong Tso, Chinese troops had come 8 km west of Finger 8 which India says marks the LAC. While the PLA has vacated the Finger 4 base area, its troops continue to occupy the ridgeline there.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said: “Chinese and Indian border troops held the fourth round of commander-level talks on July 14. Building on the common understanding reached at the previous three rounds of commander-level talks and corresponding implementation work, the two sides achieved progress in further disengagement between border troops as well as easing the situation at the western sector of the China-India boundary. We hope India will work with China to implement our consensus with concrete actions and jointly safeguard peace and tranquility in the border areas.”
Army chief General MM Naravane met Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday morning.
While there was no official statement from either the government or the Army on the talks in Chushul, the China Study Group, the government’s apex advisory body on China, met in the evening for deliberations on the future course of action.
The China Study Group, which is headed by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and has top officials of the security establishment as its members, was to take up the outcome of discussions between the Corps Commanders. A meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs is also expected shortly to take the disengagement process forward.
Rajnath Singh is scheduled to visit Ladakh on July 17, and is likely to visit forward areas to meet the troops. He is also likely to conduct a detailed review of the situation at the headquarters of XIV Corps in Leh. Singh will visit Jammu and Kashmir the next day.
Earlier this month, his visit to Ladakh was deferred and Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an unannounced visit on July 3.
On the meeting of the Corps Commanders — this was their fourth meeting since the standoff began two months ago — sources said the talks began shortly after 11 am Tuesday and continued until 2 am Wednesday.
Chinese troops are also blocking Indian access to traditional patrolling limits on the Depsang Plains, not far from the strategic Indian outpost at Daulat Beg Oldie near the Karakoram Pass in the north.
The patrolling limits have been decided by the China Study Group and Indian forces assert their presence by patrolling till these points.
Meanwhile, the Defence Minister also chaired a special meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) to empower the Army, Navy and Air Force to make capital procurement up to Rs 300 crore without approaching the DAC, making the acquisition process quicker.
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