Breakdown in talks as China refuses to budge
The 13th round of military talks between India and China to cool tensions in eastern Ladakh reached an impasse on Sunday, with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) not agreeing to suggestions made by the Indian Army.
“During the meeting, the Indian side made constructive suggestions for resolving the remaining areas, but the Chinese side was not agreeable and also could not provide any forward-looking proposals. The meeting thus did not result in resolution of the remaining areas (friction points),” the Indian Army said in a statement on Monday.
China, meanwhile, accused India of “unreasonable and unrealistic demands” in an unusually aggressive statement.
Also Read| On LAC, China’s intent is clear
The Chinese statement issued on Monday quoted Western Theatre Command spokesperson Colonel Long Shaohua as saying that China made “…great efforts to promote the easing and cooling of the border situation and fully demonstrated its sincerity in order to maintain the overall situation of the relations between the two militaries”, but “India still insisted on the unreasonable and unrealistic demands, which made the negotiations more difficult”.
The statements of the two armies are among the strongest since talks began, and may well indicate that there is a stalemate.
The focus of the ongoing talks is to cool tensions at Hot Springs and Depsang, as reported by Hindustan Times. Disengagement of soldiers deployed at Hot Springs was on the agenda for the 13th round of talks.
The outcome of the latest round of talks is disappointing as PP-15 (Hot Springs) appeared relatively easier to resolve and would have shown some move forward to break the deadlock, former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda (retd) said.
“Unfortunately, the tenor of statements, particularly from the Chinese side, indicates that there is a hardening of position. Perhaps with the infrastructure developments and capability build-up on their side, PLA feels it can hold on to its current positions and has, therefore, adopted a stronger negotiating stance,” Hooda said. “This will obviously lead to an extended period of tension along the LAC (Line of Actual Control).”
The two sides, however, agreed to maintain communications and ensure stability on the ground. “It is our expectation that the Chinese side will take into account the overall perspective of bilateral relations and will work towards early resolution of the remaining issues while fully abiding by bilateral agreements and protocols,” the Indian statement said.
The two armies on Sunday held talks to resolve problems at frictions points on the contested LAC in eastern Ladakh where India and China have been locked in a border standoff for over 17 months.
The meeting between India’s Ladakh Corps Commander and Chinese South Xinjiang military district commander took place on Sunday on the Chinese side of the Moldo-Chushul border meeting point.
India has repeatedly and consistently rejected China’s allegations that Indian troops crossed over to the Chinese side of the LAC in eastern Ladakh, asserting that New Delhi has always taken a responsible approach towards border management and maintaining peace and tranquillity along the border.
The talks came against the backdrop of massive military buildup and infrastructure development by PLA across LAC, where the Indian Army has matched the Chinese moves.
At the 13th round of talks between corps commanders, the Indian side told PLA that the situation along the LAC was caused by the latter’s unilateral attempts to alter the status quo in violation of bilateral agreements. The Chinese were also told to take appropriate steps at the remaining friction points to restore peace and tranquillity along LAC in the western sector.
“This would also be in accord with the guidance provided by the two foreign ministers in their recent meeting in Dushanbe, where they had agreed that the two sides should resolve the remaining issues at the earliest. The Indian side emphasised such resolution of the remaining areas would facilitate progress in the bilateral relations,” said the statement by the Indian Army. Its reference was to the September 16meeting between Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.
The military dialogue took place more than two months after the last round of talks that led to disengagement of forward deployed troops from Gogra, or Patrol Point-17A, one of the flashpoints on the LAC, in early August.
Also Read| LAC and the India-China stalemate
In February, the two armies pulled back troops and weaponry from Pangong Tso. Despite two rounds of disengagement at friction points this year, they still have 50,000 to 60,000 troops each and advanced weaponry in eastern Ladakh.
If the Chinese army is to stay in Ladakh, so is the Indian Army, army chief General Naravane said on Saturday, flagging India’s concern about the continuing Chinese buildup in the theatre.
The 13th round of talks followed a face-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers along the border in north-east India’s Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang around a fortnight ago, and another incursion by the Chinese in Uttarakhand in northern India on August 30.
China’s resolve to safeguard national sovereignty is firm, said Long, the Chinese colonel.
India should cherish the hard-won situation in the China-India border areas and abide by relevant agreements and consensus between the two countries and the two militaries, he said in the statement cited earlier.
Long said China hopes “India will show sincerity, take actions and work with China to jointly safeguard peace and stability in the border areas”.
Ahead of Sunday’s talks, Chinese official media and social media handles had renewed their shrill propaganda, blaming India for the border tension.