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India-China to talk border again, focus on resolving Hot Springs

While both sides have agreed to hold the next round of WMCC on border affairs this month, the meeting may be tough as the PLA is refusing to go back to permanent bases, a pre-condition to resolve Hot Springs near Kongka La in East Ladakh.
Indian Apache attack helicopter over Ladakh skies.(File Photo)
Published on Oct 21, 2021 08:35 AM IST
ByShishir Gupta, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

India and China have agreed to hold another meeting of Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs this month to resolve the deadlock arising out of 13th round of senior commanders meeting on October 10. Both sides have agreed to hold the meeting, but the dates are still to be finalised.

According to officials based in New Delhi and Beijing, the WMCC, headed by additional secretary level officials on both sides, will have tough time resolving disengagement and restoring patrolling rights to Indian Army in Depsang Bulge and Charding Nullah Junction (CNJ), Demchok, due to recalcitrant attitude of the Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA).

It is understood that during the 13th round of military commanders meeting, the PLA resorted to half-measures to resolve the disengagement in Hot Springs area by refusing to move back to permanent bases or restoring status quo ante as existed in April 2020. In May 2020, the PLA using huge volume of troops unilaterally changed the ground positions on north banks of Pangong Tso, Galwan, Gogra and Hot Springs in East Ladakh in a bid to impose rejected 1959 line along the 1597 kilometer Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.

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While the PLA decided to move back from the present position in Hot Springs area in a half-hearted effort to resolve the friction point, they did not agree to move back to permanent base as has been stipulated in the past meetings of India-China leadership. The Indian Army representative, on its part, rejected this proposal and insisted that both sides go back to their permanent bases to resolve the Hot Springs issue.

China watchers believe that the PLA will continue to drag its feet over disengagement in Hot Springs and will require a whole lot of persuasion from the Indian side to restoring patrolling rights in Depsang Bulge and CNJ area south of Demchok.

The Indian side, on its part, is also in no hurry with its formations matching the PLA build-up across the LAC. Rather than seeking compromise solutions as in the past, the Modi government will not back down from enforcing its just legal claims on the LAC. Even though the focus is on disengagement and de-escalation from Ladakh LAC, the Indian Army is closely watching the Central and Eastern sector to counter any transgression from the PLA along the full 3488-km LAC.

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