India, China working on ‘early resolution’ of stand-off, says MEA
India and China are continuing diplomatic and military engagements for an “early resolution” of the stand-off between border troops, the external affairs ministry said on Thursday as people familiar with developments confirmed the build-up of Chinese forces extended to Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
Earlier this week, the two sides began what Indian officials described as a “limited military disengagement” at three hotspots along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC) – Galwan Valley, Patrolling Point 15 and Hot Springs – in eastern Ladakh, which has been the focus of the tensions.
However, last month’s violent confrontations between Indian and Chinese soldiers in eastern Ladakh and north Sikkim triggered a military build-up on both sides of the LAC that stretched from Ladakh to Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, two senior officers said on condition of anonymity on Thursday.
Asked about the stand-off at a weekly news briefing, external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said both sides continue to be in touch through diplomatic and military channels to work for an “early resolution” of the matter in line with the guidance from the top leadership of India and China.
“As you are aware, a meeting was held by the corps commanders of India and China on June 6 in Chushul-Moldo region. This meeting was in continuation of diplomatic and military engagements which both sides have maintained to address the situation in areas along the India-China border,” Srivastava said, referring to the meeting between Lt Gen Harinder Singh, commander of Leh-based 14 Corps, and Maj Gen Liu Lin, commander of the People’s Liberation Army in South Xinjiang region.
The two sides had “agreed that an early resolution of the situation would be in keeping with the guidance of the leaders”, he said.
Srivastava added, “The two sides are, therefore, maintaining their military and diplomatic engagements to peacefully resolve the situation at the earliest as also to ensure peace and tranquillity in the border areas. This is essential for the further development of India-China bilateral relations.”
He didn’t go into the details of further engagements through diplomatic and military channels and whether the two sides had discussed issues such as the reduction of troops and the Chinese side pulling back from the Indian side of the LAC.
One of the two senior officers cited above said the Chinese build-up began immediately after clashes between border troops in Ladakh and Sikkim on May 5-6 and May 9, and predated the June 6 meeting between Lt Gen Singh and his Chinese counterpart Maj Gen Liu at Moldo on the Chinese side of the LAC.
“We have noticed a Chinese military build-up across the length of the border, from the northern to the eastern sector. This is in their so-called ‘depth areas’ or pockets within the Chinese side of the LAC,” he said.
Indian forces matched China’s military moves by sending reinforcements to forward areas, said the second officer cited above.
Former Northern Army commander, Lt Gen (retired) BS Jaswal, said: “This season is usually utilised by them for military exercises. China may have also kept forces in reserve to cater for any conflict contingency due to their early aggressive posturing in Ladakh and Sikkim. It’s also for keeping troops acclimatised.”
Jaswal said India would have deployed enough solders in forward areas to repel any offensive design by China, which would also encounter “terrain friction” (terrain difficulties) in case of any adventurism.
While the specifics of the Chinese build-up in other sectors remain unclear, their deployment in “depth areas” across the LAC in Ladakh includes more than 8,000 troops, tanks, artillery guns, fighter bombers, rocket forces and air defence radars.
In the latest military contact between the two sides, army delegations held talks in eastern Ladakh on Wednesday to ease tensions along the LAC.