‘Mutual consensus to disengage’ reached during top-level India-China military talks
A “mutual consensus to disengage” from “all friction areas” along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC) was reached during a marathon meeting between senior Indian and Chinese commanders at Moldo on the Chinese side of the LAC on Monday, two senior officials said on Tuesday.
The talks that went on for nearly 11 hours were aimed at cooling tensions and thinning the military build-up on both sides of the border.
“Modalities for disengagement from all friction areas in eastern Ladakh were discussed and will be taken forward by both the sides,” said one of the officials asking not to be named.
The meeting between the delegations led by Lieutenant General Harinder Singh, commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps, and Major General Liu Lin, commander of the South Xinjiang military region, began around 11.30 am and went on till 10.15 pm. It was held a week after the brutal clash between soldiers from the Indian Army and China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley.
“The Corps Commander-level talks between India and China were held in a cordial, positive and constructive atmosphere,” said the second official cited above who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The Indian side was demanding the pullback of Chinese troops from the Finger Area (a cluster of strategic features in the north bank of Pangong Tso) where the PLA has set up bunkers, pillboxes and observation posts, according to the two officials aware of the developments.
They said the army was also demanding the withdrawal of the PLA troops from Galwan Valley, the site of the deadly clash of June 15, and the restoration of status quo ante in key strategic areas.
The two officials familiar with the talks at the military level said India was seeking an assurance from the Chinese side on ending aggression along the border after the deadly brawl at Galwan Valley on June 15 and another face-off at Pangong Tso on May 5-6. During both skirmishes, Chinese soldiers gathered in large numbers and attacked Indian troops with stones, iron rods and nail-studded clubs.
India was also demanding the thinning of Chinese military deployments in “depth areas” on their side of the disputed border, the officials said. The aim of the talks was also to restore status quo in the Finger Area, Gogra Post-Hot Springs and Galwan Valley, they said.
According to the officials, the army was especially concerned about the PLA’s presence in the Finger Area, especially Chinese activities between Finger 4 and Finger 8 over the last seven weeks, the officials said. Chinese military positions in the Finger Area restrict the scope of the Indian Army patrolling areas that New Delhi considers its territory.
India also flagged concerns about a build-up of Chinese troops, armoured vehicles and artillery units in the Gogra Post-Hot Springs sector, north of Pangong Tso. The army wants the Chinese forces to move back from their current positions to areas where they were in early April.
This was the second meeting between the two officers of corps commander rank who earlier met on June 6 when the two sides reached an understanding to implement a de-escalation plan to ease rising tensions along the contested border.
But tensions peaked in the aftermath of the June 15 skirmish. It was the first deadly conflict between Indian and Chinese soldiers along the LAC in 45 years. While the Indian Army lost 20 soldiers, the PLA’s casualties were more than twice of that with Beijing yet to confirm the fatalities on its side.