New Delhi: The 10th round of India and China Corps Commander level talks lasted for 16 hours and ended with both sides agreeing to broader parameters for further disengagement in the Ladakh sector, where they have been in a face-off since April last year, ThePrint has learnt.
Sources in the defence and security establishment told ThePrint that the talks, which were held at the Chinese side and began 10 am Saturday and ended at 2 am Sunday, were “constructive” and both sides are “hopeful” of a fruitful outcome.
The Indian delegation led by 14 Corps Commander Lt Gen P.G.K. Menon told the Chinese that to maintain peace and tranquility at the Line of Actual Control, it was important to disengage in Gogra, Hot Springs, Demchok and stop blocking of Indian patrols in the Depsang Plains.
Both sides also reviewed the disengagement process that has been completed at Pangong Tso with them withdrawing infantry soldiers, mechanised columns and armoured elements from the northern and southern banks including the Kailash Range.
It is understood that both sides have worked out an understanding on disengagement process to be rolled out in the Gogra and Hot Spring area where India and China continue to be in a stand-off.
While both had agreed for disengagement in these areas in July last year, the Chinese did not implement the agreement completely.
The issue of Depsang Plains and Demchok was also discussed during the meeting and was part of the “constructive” outcome, sources said.
They, however, did not get into the understanding that has been reached for these two areas.
It is understood that both sides will now get back to their higher authorities and local commanders will speak to each other in the coming days to fine-tune the agreement reached at the Corps Commander talks.
Later Sunday, a joint statement released by India and China said the two sides positively appraised the smooth completion of disengagement of frontline troops in the Pangong Lake area, noting that it was a significant step forward that provided a good basis for resolution of other remaining issues along the LAC in Western Sector.
“They had candid and in-depth exchange of views on other issues along the LAC in the Western Sector. The two sides agreed to follow the important consensus of their state leaders, continue their communication and dialogue, stabilise and control the situation on the ground, push for a mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues in a steady and orderly manner, so as to jointly maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas,” it said.
Demchok also a friction area
ThePrint had first reported Saturday that contrary to earlier knowledge that three areas — Depsang, Gogra and Hot Springs — were under discussion for disengagement, India had also taken up the issue of Demchok.
Sources told ThePrint that there has been a minor transgression at Demchok where a few tents have come up, but this area is disputed.
Noting that this was not a classical violation, a source had said, “It was on and off previously but since April, the Chinese had firmed up”.
Depsang a friction point from the past
ThePrint in August last year reported that tensions at Depsang Plains can be traced to several years earlier and was linked to China’s 18-km incursion into the area, which is close to the strategic Daulat Beg Oldi base, in 2013, and during the 2017 Doklam stand-off.
The issue of Depsang Plains relates to China blocking Indian patrol teams from accessing Patrol Points (PP) 10, 11, 11A, 12 and 13.
The Indian patrol has to go beyond a feature called bottle neck area on foot, beyond which vehicles can’t be taken.
Less than a kilometre after this is an area called ‘Y’ junction, which has fork and one route leads to PP 10, 11, 11A and 12, and the other goes directly to PP 13.
This is where the Chinese come on vehicles and stop the Indian patrol team from going further, a development which became more aggressive since the 2017 Doklam stand-off.
Similarly, Indians also block Chinese patrol from coming in through the bottleneck area. This is because Chinese perception of LAC is beyond the bottleneck area (around 18-20 km from LAC) and just 1.5 km from Burtse, where the Chinese reached in 2015 during President Xi Jinping’s India visit.
(This report has been updated to include a joint statement issued by India and China)