India, China to hold 13th round of LAC talks today
The Indian and Chinese armies will parley on Sunday to cool tensions along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh. Military negotiaters will try hammer out a disengagement plan for soldiers deployed at Hot Springs, one of the friction points on LAC, officials familiar with the developments said on Saturday.
The 13th round of talks between corps commanders, to begin at 10.30 am, will be held at Moldo on the Chinese side of the LAC, said one of the officials. “Problems at Hot Springs, or Patrol Point-15, are likely to be discussed during the talks,” said a second official. “We are hopeful of positive outcomes that will take the disengagement process forward.” Both officials declined to be named.
The last round of talks was held on August 2, after which the two armies pulled back troops from Gogra, or Patrol Point-17A. It was the second such disengagement this year after the two armies pulled back troops and weaponry from the Pangong Tso sector in Ladakh in mid-February.
If the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is there to stay in the Ladakh theatre, so is the Indian Army, General Manoj Mukund Naravane said on the eve of the talks, referring to the massive military buildup and infrastructure development by the Chinese army across the LAC.
“It is a matter of concern that the large-scale buildup that occurred last year (when the border row erupted) continues to be in place. To sustain that kind of buildup, there has been an equal amount of infrastructure development on the Chinese side. It means that they are there to stay,” the chief of the army staff said at a public event on Saturday. “But if they are there to stay, we are there to stay too.”
India and China are locked in a border standoff for 17 months. Despite two rounds of disengagement at friction points this year, the two armies still have 50,000 to 60,000 troops each deployed in eastern Ladakh.
The 13th round of military dialogue follows a face-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers along the border in the sensitive Tawang sector in northeast India’s Arunachal Pradesh last week, and another incursion by the PLA in Uttarakhand in northern India on August 30.
“PLA plans to keep the entire border active so that they can keep reinforcing their claims,” former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General BS Jaswal (retd) said on Friday. “It can also be an act of creeping assertiveness to subsequently lay a claim to these areas.”
Indian and Chinese commanders agreed to a speedy resolution of outstanding issues on the LAC at the 12th round of talks, with discussions focusing on disengagement of troops from the remaining flashpoints on the contested border.
A joint statement issued after the 12th round described the talks as “a candid and in-depth exchange of views on resolution of remaining areas related to disengagement along LAC in the Western Sector of India-China border areas.”
After the disengagement of troops from Gogra, former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda (retd) said, “Hopefully, it can provide grounds for further disengagement in other areas. The real test will come when Depsang is discussed, and a breakthrough here could lead to a major de-escalation.”
The problems at Depsang predate the current border standoff.