LAC row: Army, PLA go longest without talks
The 15th round of talks between the two armies were held on March 11 this year.
Corps commander-level talks between the Indian and Chinese armies to resolve the standoff in eastern Ladakh have not been held for almost four months, even though both countries agree that dialogue is necessary for a mutually acceptable resolution at friction points on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), people familiar with the matter said on Friday.
The development comes even as India on Thursday sought an early resolution of all outstanding issues on the LAC, with external affairs minister S Jaishankar pressing his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to complete the disengagement of troops in order to restore peace and tranquillity in border areas.
The 15th round of talks between the two armies were held on March 11 this year. The gap between talks is now three months and 28 days. The two armies held eight rounds of talks in 2020 with the first held in June of that year, five rounds in 2021, and have held two rounds of talks so far this year.
“The two sides are yet to decide when the 16th round of talks will take place. There has been some delay compared to the earlier timeline, but the dialogue will continue,” said one of the officials cited above asking not to be named.
The standoff between the militaries of both countries, that has cast a shadow over the Sino-India bilateral relationship, entered its third year in May 2022. A full resolution is still not in sight ,even though the two sides have had partial success in disengaging rival soldiers from some friction areas.
Despite disengagement of soldiers from Galwan Valley, Pangong Tso and Gogra-Hot Springs area, the two armies still have around 60,000 troops each and advanced weaponry deployed in the Ladakh theatre.
The delay in holding the talks indicates there are some differences in positions of both sides, said former Northern Army commander, Lieutenant General DS Hooda (retd). “It appears these differences are not easy to reconcile. Another question to ask is if the delay reflects the overall state of the bilateral relationship,” he added.
Despite the 15 rounds of talks held so far, problems at Patrol Point-15 near Kongka La, Depsang Bulge in Daulet Beg Oldi sector and Charding Nullah Junction (CNJ) in Demchok sector are still on the negotiating table.
Over the last two years, India and China have hardened their stance on LAC with increased military activities on both sides of the boundary, deployment of modern weapons, infrastructure development, and a series of combat manoeuvres by their armies.
In May, army chief General Manoj Pande had said that the Indian Army aimed to “re-establish trust and tranquility” with the PLA, but cautioned that “it can’t be a one-way affair.”
The longer the standoff lasts, it benefits China, former director general of military operations Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia (retd) had earlier said. “It becomes the Chinese LAC and, ipso facto, they have administrative control over it. However, we have shown strategic resolve, operational and tactical superiority and responded with rapid and proportionate build-up to PLA actions since the standoff began.”
The Galwan Valley skirmish and the Indian Army’s lightning takeover of strategic heights on the southern side of Pangong Tso were among the critical developments that emerged within months of the border row erupting two years ago. A trust deficit still persists between the Indian and Chinese armies after their soldiers were involved in the brutal clash in Galwan Valley on June 15, 2020, and the lack of confidence in each other has hampered the disengagement process. The clash left 20 Indian soldiers and an undisclosed number of Chinese troops dead.