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A year since Galwan, China drags its feet on disengagement at four friction points in Ladakh

The last Corps Commander-level meeting between the two countries on 9 April had ended in a stalemate, with China first wanting de-escalation, rather than disengagement at the friction points.

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New Delhi: A year after the deadly Galwan clash, the stalemate in Ladakh continues with China yet to confirm the dates of the next round of Corps Commander-level talks, a move being seen in the defence establishment as Beijing’s reluctance to hurry up the disengagement at the four remaining friction points in Ladakh.

These four friction points include Gogra and Hot Springs, disengagement at which was first agreed upon during the first Corps Commander-level talks on 6 June 2020.

The only disengagement that has taken place since the 15 June clash of last year has been in the Galwan Valley, completed last year, and Pangong Tso, which was undertaken earlier this year.

The last Corps Commander-level meeting held on 9 April had ended in a stalemate, with China first wanting de-escalation, rather than disengagement at the friction points, which include Depsang Plains and Demchok.

Sources in the defence establishment said that despite a physical meeting not having taken place since 9 April, local commanders are in touch with their Chinese counterparts on the hotline to prevent any escalation of tensions on the ground.

They also said that a physical meeting at the Corps Commander level for resolution of tensions, or for that matter at divisional or brigade level for follow-ups is not expected to take place before 1 July, which will mark 100 years of China’s Communist Party.

Defence sources said that China had mentioned during the last Corps Commander-level meeting that further talks on disengagement in Gogra and Hot Springs, already agreed to in June last year, can take place at the divisional level, headed by a Major General rank officer.

ThePrint had on 1 May also reported that the next round of Corps Commander-level talks will be delayed and could take longer than before.

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Corps Commander-level talks was a break from protocol

The Corps Commander-level talks with China were “unprecedented”, as till last year, the established protocol to resolve tensions at the LAC were through local tactical commanders. The highest level of talks before recent tensions have involved divisional commanders, who are Major General rank officers.

The first Corps Commander-level talks took place on 6 June 2020, and came about after talks at Major General and other levels failed to find a solution to tensions that had erupted in early May last year, at the LAC.

Since then, Major General, Brigadier and Colonel level talks, in person and over the hotline, have also been held, more as a follow-up of the Corps Commander-level meetings.

For example, Major General level talks were held multiple times immediately after the Galwan clash to soothe nerves and to manage the release of 10 Indian soldiers, who had been taken captive by the Chinese in June last year.

Major General level talks were also held subsequently, besides talks at the Brigadier level as follow-ups.

Brigadiers from both sides had last met earlier this year to oversee the disengagement in the southern and northern banks of Pangong Tso.

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‘Part of China’s delaying tactics’

Sources ThePrint spoke to said that whatever China has been doing is to just delay the disengagement process and that it will be a “very long haul”.

“This seems to be part of a larger game plan. The idea being to delay talks, hold defences and improve them while gradually enhancing the build-up. It seems they are looking to create opportunities in the same or a different sector,” a second source said, warning that the Chinese are making slow moves.

Sources said that while talks happen at multiple levels, including diplomatic, decisions can be only taken at higher levels since the issue has already been escalated.

“The disengagement at Gogra and Hot Springs was first agreed upon at Corps Commander-level talks on 6 June 2020, and then during further rounds. So, the Major General rank officers, even if they meet, will be just carrying forward the talks. However, the issue of Depsang and Demchok remains a problem area,” the source added.

“Talks will continue and China seems to be in no hurry to resolve the issues. This means that finding a solution will be a very long process,” another source said.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

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