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Indian, Chinese military commanders are back at the LAC talks table today

With 50,000 troops of each army deployed in the region for an indefinite period and no dialogue at the senior level, the two sides have been working to prevent any untoward incident on the ground.

Written by Krishn Kaushik | New Delhi |
Updated: January 24, 2021 1:40:53 pm
India, China hold ninth round of LAC talksIndian and Chinese troops have been locked in a bitter border standoff in eastern Ladakh for over eight months as multiple rounds of diplomatic and military talks have not yet produced any major breakthrough. (AP/File)

More than two-and-a-half months after they last met, Indian and Chinese military commanders will sit across the table Sunday to try and make headway in talks over the situation along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh where thousands of troops have been in a faceoff since May 2020.

XIV Corps commander Lt General PGK Menon and South Xinjiang Military Region commander Major General Liu Lin are to meet Sunday morning at the Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) point in Moldo on the Chinese side of the LAC near Chushul.

Sources said the meeting has been scheduled following word from China on a memo that India sent. With 50,000 troops of each army deployed in the region for an indefinite period and no dialogue at the senior level, the two sides have been working the hotlines and other mechanisms to prevent any untoward incident on the ground. India has returned two PLA soldiers who strayed across the LAC.

A representative of the Ministry of External Affairs will also be at the talks Sunday. MEA Joint Secretary (East Asia) Naveen Srivastava, leading the Indian side in meetings of the Working Mechanism for Consultation & Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC), has also been attending the military discussions.

While the military commanders last met on November 6, the last round of diplomatic talks via the WMCC took place on December 18.

For weeks after the standoff began last May, when the Chinese came in 8 km west of the point that India says marks the LAC on the north bank of Pangong Tso, troops dug in at several places in eastern Ladakh. The Chinese refused to complete the disengagement process and both armies brought in additional forces in the depth areas, deploying tanks, artillery and air power.

Last August, Indian troops surprised the Chinese by occupying dominating heights on the south bank of Pangong Tso, and in the larger Chushul sub-sector.

Indian troops positioned themselves on Gurung Hill, Magar Hill, Mukhpari, Rechin La and Rezang La. They also have direct view of China’s Moldo Garrison, and the strategic Spanggur Gap which can be used to launch offensives — as the Chinese did in 1962.

Indian troops also readjusted their positions on the Pangong Tso north bank, occupying features to dominate Chinese positions on the ridgeline connecting Finger 3 and Finger 4. This scramble for heights led to warning shots being fired by the two sides.

Top military officers told The Indian Express that while there have been indications from China on moving back troops — India has been seeking status quo ante, of troops returning to positions before the standoff – there’s a huge trust deficit.

The two sides, officers said, are unable to reach an understanding on details of the disengagement with China insisting that India vacate the heights in the Chushul sub-sector. India, on the other hand, has made it clear that any resolution will have to factor all friction points in the region.

On January 12, at a press conference ahead of Army Day, General MM Naravane said: “We are hoping that based on the principle of mutual and equal security, we will be able to reach an agreement which would result in disengagement and de-escalation.”

“Disengagement from friction areas, and once this disengagement has been achieved, then overall de-escalation and reduction in the strength of the troops in the forward areas… We will ensure that through the medium of these talks, we reach a solution that is acceptable and not detrimental to our interests… we are prepared to hold our ground, where we are, as long as it takes to achieve our national goals and interests,” he said.

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