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Friday, July 03, 2020

Line of Actual Control: Marathon meeting between Indian and Chinese commanders

XIV Corps Commander to brief Army Chief on meeting, no immediate word from Delhi, Beijing on outcome.

Written by Krishn Kaushik | New Delhi | Updated: June 7, 2020 7:12:24 am
Satellite images from May 27 showing Chinese tents on the north bank of Pangong Tso. Planet Labs via Reuters

Indian and Chinese army commanders sat across the table for more than three hours Saturday to find ways to resolve the tense situation along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh.

Lt General Harinder Singh, XIV Corps Commander, led the Indian delegation to the Chinese border meeting point at Moldo near Chushul. The Chinese army team was led by Maj General Liu Lin, commander of the South Xinjiang Military District, which is responsible for the border with Ladakh.

Scheduled to start early Saturday morning, the meeting began only after 11 am. Sources said the talks continued for more than three hours, with a break for lunch.

Officials cautioned against expectations of any immediate resolution, saying the Saturday meeting could be the first of several.

Lt General Singh is expected to brief Army chief General M M Naravane on what transpired at the meeting. Until late night, there was no word on the meeting from either the Army or Ministry of External Affairs.

Earlier in the day, an official statement said: “Indian and Chinese officials continue to remain engaged through the established military and diplomatic channels to address the current situation in the India-China border areas. At this stage therefore any speculative and unsubstantiated reporting about these engagements would not be helpful and the media is advised to refrain from such reporting.”

Explained | Six years ago, how a standoff in Ladakh ended after discussion

There was no immediate statement on the meeting from Beijing either. A day earlier, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the border situation remained “stable and controllable”.

Ahead of the Saturday meeting of the army commanders, Indian and Chinese ambassadors joined a video call between diplomats of their border working mechanism to underline that “the two sides should handle their differences through peaceful discussion” and “not allow them to become disputes”.

Officials cautioned against expectations of any immediate resolution, saying the Saturday meeting could be the first of several.

In the Pangong Tso area, Indian troops are not being allowed by the Chinese to patrol up to Finger 8, the LAC point on the northern bank of the lake.

Opinion | Delhi must build power-balancing alliance, or come to honourable accommodation with China

Explained

This is key to diplomatic talks

The meeting between the Leh-based Corps Commander and his Chinese counterpart signals two things: the situation calls for high-level attention, and the realisation on either side that engagement is key. Reports on what transpired at the meeting will feed the next diplomatic approach, and shape negotiating strategies over the standoff.

Military and diplomatic talks so far had pointed to Chinese “intransigence”, but both New Delhi and Beijing sent out clear signals Friday that the two sides need to work “in accordance with the guidance provided by the leadership” – a reference to the ‘strategic guidance’ following the informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping in Wuhan in April 2018.

The Indian agenda for the meeting, an official said, centred around restoration of the LAC status quo ante — before China diverted its forces from an ongoing military exercise towards the Indian side.

The Indian side planned to raise the issue of the limits of patrolling by both sides, as conducted hitherto, and seek restoration. In the Pangong Tso area, Indian troops are not being allowed by the Chinese to patrol up to Finger 8, the LAC point on the northern bank of the lake.

India was also for a mutually agreed progressive reduction of heavy military equipment, such as artillery guns and tanks, from the rear areas of both sides.

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