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Hot Springs in focus at India-China talks this week, not ‘legacy issues’ Depsang & Demchok

With new commanders on both sides and after a significant gap without military escalation, sources are hopeful of progress at the 14th round of talks, scheduled for Wednesday.

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New Delhi: While India remains sceptical and has its forces heavily deployed at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as a “trust deficit” lingers on, it is hopeful of a “constructive” military dialogue with China Wednesday for disengagement in the Hot Springs area of eastern Ladakh.

Sources in the defence and security establishment told ThePrint that the focus is on Hot Springs and not the flareup of tensions in the Depsang Plains and Demchok, which they termed “legacy issues”.

A message sent out through official channels to the media said: “14th Round of Senior Highest Military Commander Level (SHMCL) talks will take place on 12 January at Chushul-Moldo meeting point, on Chinese side at 0930 IST.”

“Indian side is looking forward to constructive dialogue to resolve the balance friction areas,” the message read. 

Sources said the focus of talks was disengagement and eventually returning to the April 2020 status quo.

However, this does not include the troublesome issue of Depsang and Demchok, which as ThePrint reported in August 2020, predates the current flareup that began in May that year.

“We are hopeful that China will meet us halfway,” a source said.

Crucial meet as last round of talks failed

The 14th round of talks is significant as the last meeting held on 10 October 2021, was a failure, with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) refusing to disengage from the Hot Springs area.

The Army had then said that the “Chinese side was not agreeable”, and “could not provide any forward-looking proposals”.

The spokesperson for the PLA Western Theatre Command had said in a statement, “India still insisted on the unreasonable and unrealistic demands, which made the negotiations more difficult.”

Sources said it’s hoped that there could be forward movement despite the tense background, given the time that has passed without any escalation, and new local-level military leadership on both sides.

The Indian delegation will be headed by the new commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps, Lt Gen. Anindya Sengupta.

The Chinese side will be led by the new commander of the South Xinjiang Military District, Maj. Gen. Yang Lin.

Top government sources had this week told ThePrint that there is a “trust deficit” and India is not being taken in by any words or promises made by the Chinese.

Both India and China have amassed large numbers of troops and equipment along the LAC, and are also carrying out a massive infrastructure build-up with emphasis on new roads, bridges, underground ammunition sites, and deployment of various kinds of equipment.

The Chinese are also building a bridge over the Pangong Tso on its territory in Khurnak, the narrowest part of the lake, with prefabricated structures to counter any operation by the Indian Army on the lines of the August 2020 offensive, which led to the capture of dominating heights on the southern bank of the lake.

(Edited by Rohan Manoj)

Also read: China’s Pangong Tso bridge can’t be countered with panic or polemic


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