The China Study Group (CSG) met in New Delhi on Friday to discuss the contours of the next round of Corps Commander-level talks following an agreement reached between Indian and Chinese Foreign Ministers in Moscow to dial down tensions along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.
The nearly 90-minute meeting of the CSG, the apex advisory body on relations with Beijing, was attended, among others, by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
Sources said a date for the next Corps Commander-level meeting is still to be fixed. “It has to be decided mutually in consultation with China. As yet, a mutually agreeable date has not been arrived at,” a senior security establishment officer said.
Another official said the CSG has spelt out the agenda for the talks as and when they take place. “The immediate concern at the moment is the friction points, particularly those that have a situation of face-off or eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation. The thrust of the talks is going to be on disengagement on these points. Once developments are achieved on these, larger things will be talked about,” the official said.
With the LAC standoff in its fifth month, and the tension between Indian and China continuing, a lot is riding on the agreement reached between the two foreign ministers in Moscow. After their meeting, a joint statement said the two ministers agreed to “quickly disengage”. As India gets ready for the next round of military talks, it awaits word from Beijing. It has been a week since the Moscow agreement.
This was the first meeting of the CSG since Jaishankar reached a five-point agreement with China’s Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi in Moscow on September 10. The joint statement after the meeting had mentioned that both ministers “agreed that the current situation in the border areas is not in the interest of either side” and that the militaries “should continue their dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain proper distance and ease tensions”.
Tensions have heightened since August-end, when Indian troops occupied key heights along the LAC. The Indian Army said it had “pre-empted” moves by Chinese troops and had accordingly taken action.
The new positions on the south bank of Pangong Tso and in the Chushul sub-sector on Gurung Hill, Magar Hill and near Rezang La and Rechin La have given India a strategic advantage as they can dominate the 2-km wide Spanggur Gap and look into China’s Moldo Garrison.
Following the action on the south bank, Indian troops had readjusted their positions on the north bank of the lake as well, and now occupy heights dominating China’s positions on Finger 4. Since then, Chinese troops have made multiple attempts to dislodge Indian troops from these new positions.
There have been incidents of firing, a first in 45 years, on Pangong Tso’s north and south banks, in one of which both sides fired 100 to 200 warning shots in the air. Troops from both sides are barely 300 metres apart at several spots in the Chushul sub-sector, and barely 500 metres away from each other on the ridgeline connecting Finger 4 and Finger 3 on the north bank.
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