LAC standoff: India, China hold talks at Chushul amid tensions
New Delhi: Senior Indian and Chinese commanders on Tuesday held a long meeting at Chushul in Ladakh as part of ongoing efforts at the military level to cool heightened border tensions that have soured bilateral ties between the two neighbours, even as the military build-up on both sides of the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC) continues unabated, people familiar with developments said on Tuesday.
The talks between the army delegations, led by corps commander-ranked officers, began at around 11am and were still on till the time of filing of this report. There was no official word from the army on the talks. A breakthrough is unlikely at this stage but talks will go on, said one of the persons cited above on the condition of anonymity.
This was the third meeting between the delegations led by Lieutenant General Harinder Singh, commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps, and Major General Liu Lin, commander of the South Xinjiang military region; and the second after the brutal clash at Galwan Valley that left 20 Indian and an unconfirmed number of Chinese soldiers dead. The Galwan Valley clash, which took place while a previous disengagement process was on, has created trust deficit between the two sides, said a second person who asked not to be named.
The two delegations last met on June 22 when they hammered out a consensus on disengaging from friction points along the disputed border during an 11-hour meeting. The “mutual consensus to disengage” from all “friction areas” reached eight days ago has neither enabled any disengagement on the ground nor led to the thinning of military build-up by rival forces in the region, the second person said.
With the senior commanders making no progress in implementing a disengagement plan aimed at gradually reducing tensions, it is now becoming increasing evident that both armies are preparing for a long haul and they could remain deployed in the sector till the onset of winter (September) , said the third person cited above.
The two senior officers first met on June 6 to ease growing tensions along the LAC. The limited military disengagement that began in some friction areas after the first meeting was derailed after the bloodshed in Galwan Valley.
The Indian side on Tuesday reiterated its demand for the pullback of Chinese troops from the friction points and sought the restoration of status quo ante (early April) in key areas including Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley and the strategic Depsang plains, the third person said.
Experts were not optimistic about any fresh hope form the military-level dialogue, saying diplomatic channels would have to be worked to reach a breakthrough. Chinese military buildup continues to be observed on the ground and captured by satellite imagery, he said.
The latest meeting took place at Chushul on the Indian side of the LAC, while the previous two meetings were held at Moldo on the Chinese side.
China has not halted — and instead ramped up — its military activity in Finger Area near Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley and Depsang Plains since the senior officers last met on June 22.
India is especially concerned about the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) holding positions in the Finger Area where it has set up permanent bunkers, pillboxes, tented camps and observation posts in areas New Delhi considers its territory, HT reported on Tuesday..
The situation is equally critical from the Indian standpoint in the Depsang sector as the PLA has mobilised troops, weapons and other military equipment in sensitive areas, with its forward presence disrupting the army’s patrolling patterns there.
Both India and China have significantly reinforced their deployments with thousands of soldiers, fighter jets, helicopters, tanks, heavy artillery, missiles and air defence systems in the region.
The Chinese buildup in other areas including Galwan Valley and the Gogra Post-Hot Springs sector hasn’t thinned either. Satellite imagery dated June 22, released by US firm Maxar Technologies, showed not only was the PLA holding ground in Galwan Valley but has also shored up its military positions in the area.