New Delhi: The fifth Corps Commander-level talks between India and China began Sunday at around 11 am at Moldo on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), as New Delhi sought a renewed push for the Chinese troops to return to status quo ante as of April, before the current intrusions began.
Over the last fortnight, status quo has prevailed in Ladakh, which basically means that the Chinese have not withdrawn back to their own side of the LAC according to the schedule discussed. It is expected that during the ongoing meeting, the Indian side will press the Chinese to vacate Finger 4 of Pangong Tso, where the number of Chinese troops has thinned but not fully gone.
Defence sources said that while disengagement has taken place, there has been no de-escalation on the ground. Moreover, there has been continued build-up of troops in the rear areas.
The Indian side is being led by 14 Corps Commander Lieutenant General Harinder Singh, who led the previous four meetings too.
The last talks between Singh and his Chinese counterpart Major General Lin Liu were held in Chushul on the Indian side on 14 July. It went on for around 15 hours.
Since then, there haven’t been any significant changes in the Chinese troop positions and a status quo has remained on pulling back soldiers on both sides.
In the last meeting, India and China had decided to give each other time to take disengagement steps on their own before the next round of talks. The Army had said the process would be “intricate and would require constant verification”.
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What the discussion will be on
It was earlier reported that Pangong Tso and Depsang Plains are critical areas where the Chinese continue to have an upper hand. In Pangong Tso, the Chinese have come 8 km into the Indian side of the LAC. In the Depsang Plains, the Chinese continue to block Indian patrols from reaching Patrol Points 10, 11, 12 and 13.
The meeting Sunday will focus on Pangong Tso, where the number of troops has thinned on Finger 4, but there is continued Chinese occupation of some positions on the ridgeline, said the sources. This is a more recent intrusion as compared to Depsang.
During the meeting, India will also reiterate that the Chinese troops should fall back behind Finger 8 at Pangong Tso – the point up to which India claims its territory.
Sources also said that certain temporary patrol points are being worked out so that the troops don’t go beyond them to ensure no physical clash.
What has happened since last meeting
“While there is a physical distance between troops, they are still close and not back to pre-April positions,” a source told ThePrint, adding that this will continue to remain India’s stand in the discussions taking place Sunday.
With winter approaching in the next few months, de-escalation from the depth areas is mandatory to prevent further or subsequent escalations, the source said.
“That is because the troops in the depth areas are already acclimatised and can be mobilised quickly, leading to past situations (like Galwan),” the source said.
As a confidence building measure for the long term, the build-up in the rear areas should be halted and the troops should return to where they were before the stand-off began, the source added.
Currently, the Army has a huge task of planning the logistics for 30,000 additional troops that have been deployed at the LAC amid the standoff with China since the first week of May. They may continue to remain stationed through the winter if the stand-off continues.
India has also initiated multiple emergency procurement, which include weapons and high-altitude clothing for the additional troops deployed in forward locations at the LAC.
It was earlier reported that the Army, Navy and Air Force have taken coordinated steps on the China and Pakistan fronts amid tensions with Beijing, keeping in mind a “collusive” threat from both.
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