The meeting at the level of Major General between Indian and Chinese armies took place Saturday to discuss ways to reduce tensions in the strategically important area of Depsang Plains in northern Ladakh. The meeting, which began in the morning on the Indian side of the Daulat Beg Oldie-Tianwendian Border Meeting Point on the Line of Actual Control, concluded around 7.30 pm. The Indian delegation to the meeting was led by GOC of 3 Mountain Division, Major General Abhijit Bapat, as reported Saturday by The Indian Express.
Official sources said the agenda of the meeting was two-fold: de-escalation of troops and equipment mobilised by both the armies on the LAC in the area; and restoration of patrolling rights to Indian troops which has been blocked by the Chinese side since May. The two sides, sources said, did not discuss any other friction point during the meeting, focusing exclusively on Depsang Plains. Sources said the two sides discussed ways to respect the border in Depsang Plains, where the Indian and Chinese versions of the LAC differ by around 23 km. This has led to a large number of transgressions by Chinese patrols recorded by the Indian side: 157 in 2019, up from 83 in 2018 and 75 in 2017.
Despite these differences on where the LAC lies and occasional stopping of each other’s patrols, the two armies had devised local mechanisms to be able to patrol up to their designated areas. These means have failed in the past three months and the meeting, sources said, discussed ways to revive those mechanisms.
Sources said the process of de-escalation at Depsang is more challenging as both the armies consider it to be strategically critical to their military aims in Ladakh. It provides access to the DBO airstrip, the Karakoram region, and the 255-km Darbuk-Shyok-DBO (DSDBO) road, besides providing depth to China’s western highway, its main link between the two restive provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet.
The Chinese army has blocked Indian patrols at a place called Y-junction or Bottleneck on the Depsang Plains, in another attempt to shift the LAC further west on the disputed boundary.
Military Digest| Eastern Ladakh Sitrep: The ‘Bottleneck’ in Indo-China talks
Bottleneck is known as Y-junction because the track coming from Burtse forks into two tracks, one going northwards along the Raki Nala to Patrolling Point-10 (PP-10) and the other south-eastward towards PP-13. These two tracks are followed by Indian patrols on foot up to PP-10, PP-11, PP-11A, PP-12 and PP-13, which have been denied to the Indian soldiers for patrolling.
Bottleneck, which derives its name from a rocky outcrop that prevents vehicular movement across the Depsang Plains, is the place where the Chinese had pitched tents after an ingress in April 2013. It is around 18 km on the Indian side of the LAC, even though the Chinese claim line lies another 5 km further west. This location is 7 km to the north-east of Burtse, a Ladakh town which falls on the DSDBO road.