New Delhi: Senior commanders of the Indian and Chinese armies have been in talks at Daulat Beg Oldi in Ladakh since 11 am Saturday as the two sides look to ease the stalemate in their disengagement dialogue.
The talks are being led by Major General-level officers, and come after five rounds of dialogue between corps commanders. The Indian delegation is headed by Major General Abhijit Bapat, General Officer Commanding of the 3 Infantry Division, government sources said. The name of his Chinese counterpart is not known.
The fresh round of dialogue comes as India and China have hit a stalemate in military talks with regard to disengagement at multiple flashpoints in Ladakh.
Government sources said the meeting will focus on all areas and friction points at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), but defence sources claimed the situation at Pangong Tso and Depsang Plains remains a major cause of concern.
“The areas of concern are trans-LAC patrolling by China in the area of Finger 4 at Pangong Tso and denial of access to Patrol Points 10 to 13 at Depsang by China,” a top defence source said.
The source added that six to eight small Chinese patrols have been coming beyond the claim lines in the area of Pangong Tso and returning after 24-48 hours.
Even though the Chinese presence has thinned down from Finger 4 since disengagement efforts began last month, and moved towards Finger 5, they continue to dominate Finger 4.
‘China blocking India’s access to large tract’
India and China have been at odds at several points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) since Chinese incursions began in May, including Galwan Valley, Hot Springs area, Depsang Plains and Pangong Tso.
The fifth corps-commander-level dialogue was held last Sunday.
However, disengagement efforts have hit a roadblock in Ladakh since the fourth round on 14 July amid differences at Pangong Tso and Depsang Plains.
At Depsang, where the LAC tensions began months before the May incursions, China is believed to be blocking Indian soldiers’ access to a “large disputed tract”.
“China is blocking patrols by choking the strategic bottleneck and denying Indian soldiers access to a large tract of disputed area,” the source said.
Despite initial disengagement in a few areas, such as Galwan Valley, both sides have been building up troops in certain areas, showing no signs of any withdrawal.
Satellite images have shown increased Indian and Chinese deployments at Depsang Plains. The Chinese have deployed additional tanks and artillery guns and moved them slightly forward from their usual positions. But they are still away from India’s perception of LAC.
India has also moved additional men, tanks and other equipment into Depsang Plains to counter Chinese build-up.
At Pangong Tso, the Chinese have been firm in their assertion that they are on their own territory, and have cited a road constructed by them during the 1999 Kargil Battle to stake claim.
The road extends till Finger 4, one of the eight “finger-like” protrusions of the lake’s northern bank that have been used by the two sides to outline their positions. India has demanded that the Chinese should be going back to the pre-April positions.
While the talks between the two sides will continue at various levels, sources had earlier told ThePrint that there will be a larger focus on resolving the situation diplomatically.
This report has been updated to reflect the correct name of the 3 Infantry Division