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Home / India News / In marathon meet, India, China talk tricky issues

In marathon meet, India, China talk tricky issues

Negotiations are expected to be harder going forward as the continued presence of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the Finger Area and the Depsang sector could be the sticking point of the talks.

india Updated: Jul 15, 2020 03:45 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
An army convoy moves towards the LAC in Ladakh on  July 12.
An army convoy moves towards the LAC in Ladakh on July 12.(PTI Photo )

Complicated negotiations on kicking off the next stage of disengagement between the Indian and Chinese armies in eastern Ladakh saw senior military commanders from both sides hold an hours-long meeting at Chushul on Tuesday to discuss the road map for further reducing tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), people familiar with the developments said on Tuesday.

The talks that began at 11.30am were in progress when this report was filed.

The focus of the latest round of military talks was to hammer out a consensus on easing tensions in the Finger Area near Pangong Tso and Depsang plains as well as pulling back weapons and equipment from friction points in other sectors, said one of the officials cited above.

“Tricky issues are on the table. Addressing them will take time,” he said.

This was the fourth meeting between the corps commander-ranked officers who made previous attempts to reduce tensions along the contested border on June 6, June 22 and June 30.

The previous two meetings went on for up to 11 hours while the first one was the shortest at seven hours.

Negotiations are expected to be harder going forward as the continued presence of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the Finger Area and the Depsang sector could be the sticking point of the talks, as reported by Hindustan Times on Tuesday.

In Tuesday’s talks, the agenda included the step-wise withdrawal of weapons and equipment to mutually agreed distances from all friction areas along the LAC and thinning the military build-up in the region, a second official said.

The military dialogue will be followed by another meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs. The military commanders set the time-frame and method of disengagement, while the WMCC monitors the process.

A limited military disengagement was initiated last month after the commanders reached an understanding on reducing tensions during their first meeting on June 6. But the Galwan Valley skirmish on June 15 dashed disengagement hopes, leaving 20 Indian and an unconfirmed number of Chinese soldiers dead.

The July 14 talks follow a series of steps taken by the two armies at friction points in Galwan Valley, Hot Springs and Gogra to implement a complex disengagement plan worked out during the June 30 meeting between 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.

The current disengagement process began after the June 30 military dialogue and a subsequent conversation on July 5 between national security adviser Ajit Doval and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi.

At the June 30 meeting, the Indian side reiterated its demand for the pullback of Chinese troops from friction points along the LAC and sought the restoration of status quo ante (the situation as it existed in early April) in the Finger Area, Galwan Valley, Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang plains, apart from emphasising the need for thinning the military build-up in the region.

The disengagement effort involves rival troops pulling back a specified distance from face-off sites, with further retreat taking place in phases as the plan progresses on a verifiable basis on the ground every 72 hours by both sides.

The military build-up in Indian and Chinese depth areas hasn’t thinned, with both sides keeping their guard up. The deployment of thousands of soldiers, fighter jets, helicopters, tanks, artillery guns, missile systems and air defence weapons continues in the region.

The PLA pulled back 2km from Patrolling Point 14 (Galwan Valley), PP-15 (Hot Springs) and PP-17 (Gogra) last week, with the Indian Army also withdrawing proportionately in these areas.

The army observed some thinning of PLA troops, vehicles and removal of structures from a key spur in the Finger Area over the last week but the army doesn’t view it as disengagement, said a third official, asking not to be named.

The Finger Area, which refers to a set of eight cliffs jutting out of the Sirijap range overlooking the Pangong lake, remains the biggest test and the hardest part of the disengagement process.

The army is keeping a strict vigil along the contested border in the Depsang sector where the PLA’s forward presence is a matter of serious concern and where a 2013 Chinese intrusion blocked the access of Indian soldiers to several patrolling routes, including the ones leading to PPs-10, 11, 11A, 12 and 13.

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