AIMING TO take the disengagement process in eastern Ladakh forward, India and China exchanged proposals on outstanding issues in the region during the 10th round of military-level talks between the two sides that started 10 am Saturday and continued past 2 am Sunday.
Sources told The Indian Express that the proposals will be considered at the political level before being taken forward or discussed in the next round of talks, which is “expected to take place” in a fortnight.
Both sides have agreed to continue with talks, which can happen at “various levels”, they said. “Some forward movement” in discussions on friction points at Hot Springs and Gogra Post can be expected first before any move on the more contentious Depsang Plains, they said.
The latest round of talks follows the completion of disengagement and restoration of status quo ante on the north and south banks of Pangong Tso.
Following the meeting, a joint India-China statement said that the two sides had “candid and in-depth exchange of views” on the outstanding issues on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and “agreed to follow the important consensus of their state leaders”. The statement also underlined the commitment to continue dialogue and “push for a mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues in a steady and orderly manner”.
The Indian delegation was led by Lt General P G K Menon, Commander of the Leh-based XIV Corps, while South Xinjiang Military District Commander, Major General Liu Lin, headed the PLA team.
Military sources told The Indian Express that no significant new ground was achieved between the two sides regarding the friction points of Patrolling Point 15 (PP15) in Hot Springs, PP17A in Gogra Post, PPs 10, 11, 11A, 12, 13 in Depsang Plains, and the Charding-Ninglung Nallah (CNN) in the Demchok area.
However, they said “both sides shared their proposals” for these points, and are expected to take between a week to a fortnight to consider them as they have to be discussed at the top levels.
According to the sources, both sides were “pleased” with the disengagement along Pangong Tso, where India had asked Chinese troops to move east of Finger 8 in the north while China had wanted Indian troops to vacate the heights of the Kailash range in the south.
Referring to the latest talks on the Chinese side of the Moldo-Chushul meeting point in Ladakh, sources said: “All contentious issues, including Hot Springs, Gogra, Depsang Plains and Demchok, were discussed. Proposals have been exchanged and a way forward will be decided after each country discusses the proposals at their end. We may see a quicker result on Gogra and Hot Springs as disengagement at these friction points had begun in July last year itself but remained partial. The success of Pangong Tso disengagement has given us hopes of resolving the unfinished business at Gogra and Hot Springs,” said an official.
The joint statement, too, acknowledged the confidence built by the disengagement. “The two sides positively appraised the smooth completion of disengagement of frontline troops in the Pangong Lake area noting that it was a significant step forward that provided a good basis for resolution of other remaining issues along the LAC in Western Sector. They had candid and in-depth exchange of views on other issues along the LAC in the Western Sector,” it said.
“The two sides agreed to follow the important consensus of their state leaders, continue their communication and dialogue, stabilize and control the situation on the ground, push for a mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues in a steady and orderly manner, so as to jointly maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas,” it said.
The tenth round of talks were based on complete disengagement on the north and south Banks of Pangong Tso, which was achieved on February 18-19 with the two sides verifying restoration of status quo ante on the lake.
In Hot Springs and Gogra Post areas, Chinese and Indian troops are still in a faceoff, nine months after the military standoff began in May 2020. Disengagement of troops in these two areas was attempted last July but Chinese reluctance to complete the process led to a stalemate.
In the Depsang Plains in the far north, Chinese troops have been blocking Indian soldiers at a site called the Bottleneck, preventing them from accessing traditional patrolling points PP10, PP11, PP11A, PP12 and PP13. Depsang Plains is close to the strategic Indian base at Daulat Beg Oldie, near the Karakoram Pass.
At the talks, the Indian side is also learnt to have broached the subject of grazing rights of residents in the Demchok area. Sources said broad contours for the talks had been drawn through a series of meetings that began Thursday midnight following completion of disengagement at Pangong Tso. The disengagement of artillery, tanks and troops from heights was completed Wednesday, and verification on the ground by the two sides Thursday.
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