New Delhi: Indian and Chinese Army officers continued meetings at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh Thursday to prevent further escalation ahead of the meeting between foreign ministers S. Jaishankar and Wang Yi in Moscow, ThePrint has learnt.
The two leaders will hold a meeting Thursday evening on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) foreign ministers’ meet in the Russian capital.
In the hours before, defence and government sources said, brigade commanders as well as commanding officers on the two sides held meetings to discuss tensions at Pangong Tso, where the situation remains volatile.
Although continuing since May, the tensions marked a new high this weekend as the Chinese opened fire at the border as a warning for Indian soldiers — the first time in 45 years that a shot has been fired on the India-China border.
This episode came a week after India thwarted a Chinese attempt to alter the status quo at Pangong Tso on the night of 29-30 August.
Indian and Chinese brigade commanders, who have been in talks since tensions first erupted in May, have been holding regular discussions since the 29-30 August clash, the sources said.
The brigade commanders interacted over hotline Tuesday — a day after the firing — and met on the ground Wednesday in an area south of Pangong Tso.
Meanwhile, commanding officers of units along the LAC have been holding talks on different tactical nuances to avoid any face-off between the troops, the sources said. These meetings have also been taking place since May.
However, the meetings have remained largely inconclusive, with both Indian and Chinese troops continuing to dig in and consolidate their positions at the LAC.
What’s on the agenda
To the south of Pangong Tso, which has emerged as a major flashpoint in border talks, a group of 40 Chinese soldiers has stayed put at one location, triggering a stand-off with Indian troops. At some points in the same area, the armed troops of the two sides are at a distance of less than 200 metres.
“The buildup by the Chinese troops in the depth areas is constantly increasing at a faster pace, owing to the infrastructure and lines of communication on their side,” a source told ThePrint.
Meanwhile, Indian troops have begun constructing permanent defences and reinforcing occupied localities by digging trenches and bringing in war-like stores, sources said.
There has been a redeployment of troops along the LAC so as to hold crucial dominating heights and keep adequate reserves ready to reinforce any post as required, the sources added.
“Reserves (troops) are also being maintained in case the situation escalates,” the source quoted above said.
The major challenge for troops deployed in Ladakh is to face sub-zero temperatures during the upcoming winter season, the sources said.
Talking about the agenda of border talks, the sources added, the two sides discussed keeping communication channels open, and conveyed what areas or heights each perceives to be under their operational control.
When tensions escalated at the LAC, Chinese troops adopted a three-pronged tactical approach while trying to advance at certain points in areas south of the Pangong lake.
While they have fired and moved at some places, at others, they are moving with clubs, machetes and spears, among other sharp weapons. The 15 June Galwan Valley clash, which led to the death of 20 Indian soldiers and an unconfirmed number on the Chinese side, also involved such weapons.
“At places, they also advanced in large groups without weapons as provocative posturing,” a second source said, discussing the “third prong”.
“This was also one of the points of discussion in yesterday’s and today’s commanders’ meeting,” the source added.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.