India, China hold 12th round of border talks
- The outcome of the dialogue was not immediately known, with the officials saying that a statement on the talks was likely to be issued by Monday.
Top Indian and Chinese commanders on Saturday met in the Ladakh sector in the latest attempt to reduce border tensions between the two countries amid growing hopes in some quarters of reaching an understanding on the disengagement of rival soldiers from Hot Springs and Gogra on the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The 12th round of military talks between corps commander-ranked officers of the Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) began at 10.30am and ended at 7.30pm at Moldo on the Chinese side of the LAC, officials familiar with the development said. At nine hours, this was possibly the shortest round of talks between the two armies.
The outcome of the dialogue was not immediately known, with the officials saying that a statement on the talks was likely to be issued by Monday.
India and China have been locked in a border row for almost 14 months, a phase that witnessed a deadly skirmish in the Galwan Valley and heightened tensions between the two armies on the north and south banks of Pangong Tso last year. The two armies kicked off talks to cool border tensions in June 2020.
Before Saturday, the corps commander-ranked officers met on April 9, when the Indian Army told the PLA that disengagement at all friction points on the disputed border was crucial for the de-escalation of the conflict.
Some forward movement is expected in hammering out a disengagement agreement for Hot Springs and Gogra, as reported by HT on Friday.
While the Indian and Chinese armies began negotiations to resolve the border row on June 6, 2020, the talks have only had limited success so far.
The only significant outcome has been the disengagement of front-line troops and weaponry from the Pangong Tso sector in mid-February after the ninth round of talks. Problems at Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang are yet to be resolved.
Both armies have 50,000 to 60,000 troops each in the Ladakh theatre and the deployments haven’t thinned after the disengagement in the Pangong Tso sector.
In May, army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said his soldiers were on high alert as the PLA continued to base its troops and mechanised elements including tanks in its “immediate depth” across the LAC from where they could be deployed to forward areas at short notice. (In army parlance, immediate depth in the context of the Ladakh sector refers to a distance of 150km to 200km from the LAC.)
PLA’s reluctance to pull back its forward deployed troops and restore the status quo ante of April 2020 has hampered the disengagement process, as previously reported by HT.
On July 2, chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat said the Indian armed forces should stay prepared for any misadventure by the Chinese forces and respond as needed.
“We have to keep our guard up, remain prepared and not take things lightly. We must also be prepared for any misadventure and respond accordingly. We have responded in the past and will do so in the future,” Rawat then said.
The Indian Army’s patrolling activity has been affected in Hot Springs and Gogra due to the Chinese deployments.
The PLA’s forward presence in Depsang has also hindered access of Indian soldiers to routes including the ones leading to Patrolling Points (PP) 10, 11, 11-A, 12 and 13.
To be sure, the problems at Depsang predate the current border standoff.