Indian and Chinese commanders sat across the table Saturday to discuss pullback of troops from the friction points at Hot Springs, Gogra Post and Depsang Plains in Ladakh following completion of disengagement and restoration of status quo ante on the north and south banks of Pangong Tso.
The Corps Commander-level talks began at 10 am Saturday at the Moldo border point facing Chushul. The talks, sources said, are expected to continue late into the night.
The Indian delegation is being led by Lt General PGK Menon, Commander of the Leh-based XIV Corps, while South Xinjiang Military District Commander, Major General Liu Lin, is heading the PLA team.
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 place called the Bottleneck, preventing them from accessing their 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 of the Demchok area.
Sources said broad contours for the talks had been drawn through a series of meetings which began Thursday midnight following completion of the disengagement on the north and south banks of Pangong Tso. The disengagement of artillery, tanks and troops from heights was completed Wednesday, but the two sides had to verify it on the ground and this was done Thursday.
The meeting at Moldo is in line with what Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had said in Parliament on February 11 while announcing the start of the Pangong Tso disengagement — “It has also been agreed to convene the next meeting of the Senior Commanders within 48 hours after the complete disengagement in the Pangong Lake area so as to address and resolve all other remaining issues.”
A senior government official had earlier told The Indian Express that everything that was agreed upon at the ninth round of talks on January 24 had been achieved.
“At Pangong Tso, we have achieved status quo ante. On the north bank, China has pulled its troops east of Finger 8 (which India says marks the LAC) and India is holding its position behind Finger 3 at the Dhan Singh Thapa post. All temporary structures, erected by China in the (temporary no-patrolling) stretch between, have been levelled. We too have vacated the heights at Rechin La and Rezang La on the south bank as per the agreement. In fact, China has shown unexpected alacrity in vacating the positions it held. This has raised hopes of results in the forthcoming meetings on outstanding issues,” the official said.
“The key issues, of course, are the disengagement process that remained partial at Hot Springs and Gogra, apart from the long-standing issue of patrolling rights on the Depsang Plains. We are also going to take up the issue of the CNN (Charding-Ninglung Nallah) area, which includes Demchok, where grazing rights of our people have faced opposition from the Chinese in the last three years. We are basically on to the next phase of a series of meetings that will deal with these outstanding issues,” another official said.
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