A day after the Indian and Chinese Foreign Ministers met in Moscow to try and dial down tensions in Ladakh where the situation along the LAC remains grim, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh chaired a nearly two-hour long meeting Friday with the military brass and the National Security Advisor.
Sources said the next round of talks at the Corps Commander-level between the two countries is likely next week.
The China Study Group, headed by NSA Ajit Doval, is likely to hold a meeting Saturday following the return of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, a government source said. “The CSG will work on the agenda and contours for the Corps Commander-level talks which will be scheduled next week,” the source said.
The CSG includes the secretaries of Defence, External Affairs, Home and vice-chiefs of the three services apart from chiefs of the IB and RAW.
Indian and Chinese troops are within a few hundred metres from each other at several positions on the north and south banks of Pangong Tso. China massed troops after the Indians raced to capture key heights on the stretch from the south bank to Rechin La near Rezang La.
Those present at the meeting chaired by Rajnath Singh included NSA Doval, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Army chief General MM Naravane, Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh, and IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria.
The military brass met Singh to discuss the “changed situation on the ground,” a source from the defence establishment said. They also discussed the future course of action, with the current situation in mind, following the five-point consensus reached between Jaishankar and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Moscow.
Last week, Singh met China’s Defence Minister Wei Fenghe in Moscow to discuss the standoff which is now in its 19th week.
After the meeting Friday, CDS Rawat appeared before Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence. He briefed the House panel on provisions and monitoring of the quality of ration and other items for the armed forces, especially in the border areas.
Sources in the Army said that following the discussions in Moscow, the next round of discussions between the Corps Commanders is likely to be held within days. This would be the sixth round of talks between the Corps Commanders.
After the initial disengagement of troops, there has been no progress on the ground since mid-July with the Chinese reluctant to complete the pullback from the friction points. The third and fourth round of talks on July 14 and August 2, respectively, failed to achieve a breakthrough.
Indian troops turned the tables on the Chinese between August 29 and 31. They occupied heights south of Pangong Tso and from their current positions on Magar Hill and Gurung Hill, they get a commanding view of the terrain including the PLA garrison at Moldo and the Spanggur Gap, a 2-km wide pass that can be used for a military offensive, as China did in 1962.
India has also re-adjusted its positions on the north bank by occupying heights to dominate Chinese positions on the Finger 4 ridgeline where they have been since May.
Barely 300 metres separate Indian and Chinese troops on the ridgeline that connects the tops of Finger 3 and Finger 4, near a feature called the Pimple.
Brigade commanders of both sides have been meetings regularly, along with the commanding officers in their respective areas of responsibility. “This is just people meeting on the ground. It is to make sure that the situation does not spiral out of control,” an Army source said.
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