Updated: January 6, 2022 4:59:57 am
Lt Gen PGK Menon, who had been leading the Indian side during the Corps Commander-level talks regarding the 21-month standoff with China in eastern Ladakh, handed over the command of the XIV ‘Fire and Fury’ Corps to a new officer on Wednesday. The incoming officer is Lt Gen Anindya Sengupta, who was posted in the Delhi headquarters.
Sengupta was part of the last round of Corps Commander-level talks with China in October, which had ended in a stalemate.
Awarded the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal in November, Sengupta has held a number of important positions during his career. He was most recently part of the Complaints and Advisory Board at the headquarters as a major general.
In August 2019, when Article 370 was abrogated, Sengupta was the head of the Victor Force, which is responsible for all counter-insurgency operations in north Kashmir. He had previously served in the Leh-based XIV corps as a colonel, and later had a tenure at the Siachen Glacier as well.
Sengupta will now lead the Indian delegations in the subsequent rounds of talks with China regarding the standoff.
Menon had been leading the Indian delegation since the eighth round of discussions in November 2020, but had been part of the discussions even in the sixth and the seventh rounds of talks as well. It was in the ninth round of discussions between the corps commanders that the breakthrough for disengaging from the north and south banks of the Pangong Tso was achieved in January 2021.
He had taken over from Lt Gen Harinder Singh in October 2020.
The dates for the 14th round of talks are yet to be decided.
While in the 12th round, the two sides had agreed on disengaging from Patrolling Point (PP) 17A in Gogra Post. India had been hopeful of disengagement from PP15 in Hot Springs during the 13th round, but the meeting ended in a deadlock, with both sides blaming each other. While India had said that the standoff was caused by China’s unilateral attempts to alter the status quo, China said that India was “unrealistic and unreasonable” in its demands and should cherish the hard-won situation.
The Army had said in a statement that India put forward constructive suggestions, and that China did not agree to them and did not come up with any “forward looking proposals” as the two sides “focused on resolution of the remaining issues” along the LAC.
“The meeting thus did not result in resolution of the remaining areas,” the Army statement had said.
Apart from PP15, where each side has a platoon-sized strength of soldiers, there are two more outstanding issues. First, in Depsang Plains, the Chinese troops have been blocking Indian soldiers from accessing their five traditional patrolling points in the region: PP10, PP11, PP11A, PP12 and PP13. China is not allowing Indian troops to move beyond an area known as the Bottleneck, which is 18 km inside from the LAC. The area is strategically significant as it lies just 30 km southeast of the important Daulat Beg Oldie post and airstrip in the north, close to the Karakoram Pass.
Additionally, officials have said that “so-called civilians” pitched tents on the Indian side of the LAC in Demchok, and have refused to vacate the area. Demchok is near the south of eastern Ladakh.
Both India and China had disengaged from PP14 in Galwan Valley in June, after the troops had clashed in violent hand-to-hand combat resulting in the death of 20 Indian and at least four Chinese troops.
In February 2021, both sides pulled back from the north bank of Pangong Tso and in the Chushul sub-sector. The face-off in the region was extremely sensitive, as the two militaries had their troops and tanks barely a few hundred metres apart in certain places.
After months of stalemate, the breakthrough for PP17A came at the end of July, and the troops were pulled back in early August. In all these places, a temporary buffer zone has been created, and the troops are not allowed to patrol there till the entire standoff is resolved.