New Delhi: The fourth round of corps commander-level talks between India and China, scheduled for Tuesday at the Chushul-Moldo meeting point, may prove the toughest yet as they will focus on disengagement at Pangong Lake and the Depsang Plains, where both sides have serious differences.
The meeting will be led by 14 Corps Commander Lieutenant General Harinder Singh and his Chinese counterpart Major General Lin Liu, commander of the South Xinjiang Military District, who also conducted the earlier rounds of military talks on 6 June, 22 June, and 30 June.
Like the third round of military dialogue, the meeting Tuesday will also be held on the Indian side, which, sources said, means India will have the first say. The first two meetings were held on the Chinese side of Chushul-Moldo.
The talks Tuesday are likely to last long, the sources added even as they remained tightlipped about the exact agenda points of the meeting.
India and China have been engaged in a series of military and diplomatic dialogues to ease the stand-off along several points of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh — the Galwan Valley, Hot Spring, Depsang Plains and Pangong.
The standoff began in May, and saw the countries engage in their deadliest clash in decades — the Galwan Valley face-off that led to the death of 20 Indian soldiers and an unconfirmed number on the Chinese side. It was triggered by Chinese refusal to adhere to mutually agreed disengagement terms.
In light of subsequent talks, the countries began a second attempt at disengagement in Ladakh last Monday.
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One of the sources said the meeting Tuesday will involve discussions on “disengagement in other areas, besides Galwan Valley and the Hot Spring area, which includes the Gogra post”.
“They will also review the disengagement that has taken place in these locations (Patrol Point or PP 14 in Galwan, and PP 15 and PP 17 in Hot Spring),” the source said.
A second source said the main point of discussion is the Pangong Lake, where the Chinese have come in by 8 km since May, besides the Depsang Plains, where the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) have a huge build-up of artillery, tanks and soldiers.
While disengagement in Galwan and Hot Spring involved the two sides moving back from the face-off sites, the situation in Pangong Lake and Depsang Plains is different, sources said.
“This round of talks would be tough. In Galwan and Hot Spring, there was more understanding at the local level on the LAC. However, it varied a lot in Pangong and Depsang Plains,” the source added.
“The Chinese have intruded deep into the Indian side of the LAC. The Chinese will have to move back,” a third source said.
The sources said there is no possibility of Indians moving back from these areas since they are well within their own territory — territory, they “controlled and not just patrolled”.
Disengagement in progress
The disengagement that began last week has seen China’s presence “thin down” at Finger 4 in the Pangong Lake, although the PLA continues to dominate the position.
At Depsang Plains, meanwhile, India and China have both increased deployment. According to Army sources, the PLA has deployed additional tanks and moved them slightly forward from their usual positions, but they are still away from the LAC.
However, inputs suggest Indians are unable to reach Patrol Points 11, 12 and 13 at Depsang Plains, an area located close to the strategic air base Daulat Beg Oldi that has witnessed Chinese incursions in the past too.
Both India and China have pumped in over 30,000 troops, besides artillery, tanks, fighters, gunship helicopters and other equipment at Ladakh since the stand-off first began on 5 May following a clash at Pangong Lake.
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