New Delhi: In a high-level meeting of nearly seven hours with Chinese counterparts, the Indian Army delegation, led by 14 Corps Commander Lt Gen. Harinder Singh, sought a return to the “status quo as of April” in eastern Ladakh and a pull back of Chinese build-up at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), ThePrint has learnt.
The Chinese delegation to the meeting was led by Maj. Gen. Lin Liu, the commander of the South Xinjiang Military District.
The meeting follows a month-long standoff between the two nations in Ladakh along the western sector of their border.
The final outcome of the meeting, which started 11.30 am and lasted until the evening, was not immediately known. The meeting point at Chushul-Moldo, on the Chinese side of the LAC.
However, sources in the security establishment said no one should expect the situation to calm down with just one meeting, indicating that more parleys wold take place at various levels, including diplomatic.
A long meeting
According to sources, the Indian delegation of nearly a dozen officers reached the meeting point at about 10 am, and was received by the Chinese side, headed by Maj. Gen. Lin Liu. This was followed by certain discussions and greetings, in keeping with protocol, the sources added.
“The formal meeting started at about 11.30 and the delegation left the meeting point in the evening. There was also lunch,” a source told ThePrint.
Sources said, the meeting eventually ended after 6.30 pm. There were multiple rounds of meetings, including sessions on point of contention in the Pangong Lake where the Chinese have built a bunker and moat-like structure between Finger 3 and 4 to prevent Indian patrol teams from moving ahead.
A second source added that India’s demands during the meeting included a return to the status quo as of April. “There were certain issues that India wanted to raise during the meeting. The foremost being that status quo as of April needs to be maintained by China, which means they need to pull back from areas of troop build-up as well as the transgression points,” the source said.
ThePrint had reported Friday evening that the agenda for talks was likely to include a return to status quo.
Asked about the final outcome of the meeting, a third source said Lt Gen. Singh will debrief Northern Army Commander Lt Gen. Y.K. Joshi and Army chief Gen. M.M. Naravane about the meeting.
‘Armed with peace agreements’
Sources said the Indian delegation at the meeting was armed with copies of agreements signed between the two countries in 1993, 1996, 2005, 2012 and 2013 for maintenance of peace at the LAC and for confidence-building measures.
The Ministry of External Affairs had stated last week that the two countries will resolve their differences in keeping with the five frameworks. As reported by ThePrint earlier, troop build-up by China along the LAC goes against the 1993 agreement.
Article III of the 1993 Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas says, “Each side will keep its military forces in the areas along the line of actual control to a minimum level compatible with the friendly and good neighbourly 66 relations between the two countries.”
But no numbers were mentioned in the agreement and what constitutes the “minimum level” had remained undefined, as outlined in a paper published by the Delhi-based think-tank Observer Research Foundation.
Article V of the 1996 Agreement between India and China on Confidence-Building Measures in the Military Field along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas says aircraft cannot fly within 10 km of the LAC. It only allows “unarmed transport aircraft, survey aircraft and helicopters” to fly up to one km of the LAC.
The military meeting came after senior officers of the Indian and Chinese foreign ministries held a video meeting and decided to resolve their differences “through peaceful discussion”.