New Delhi: The third round of corps commander-level talks between India and China Tuesday saw the countries discuss the need for an “expeditious, phased and step-wise de-escalation” to resolve the ongoing military standoff at the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh, government sources have said.
It was with a similar agreement that the second round of talks was wound up on 22 June.
The meeting Tuesday, held at Chushul on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), started at 10.30 am and continued for 12 hours, the sources added.
“The meeting yesterday was long and held in a business-like manner keeping in view the Covid-19 protocols. The discussions reflected the commitment of both sides to reduce the tensions along the LAC,” a government source said.
The source added that more meetings are expected at “both the military and at the diplomatic level… to arrive at mutually agreeable solutions and ensure peace and tranquility along the LAC in keeping with bilateral agreements and protocols”.
The western sector of the LAC in Ladakh has been tense since May on account of Chinese provocations at the border, which are believed to be a mark of protest against Indian construction activity in the area.
The tensions took a deadly turn 15 June as soldiers of the two nations came to blows in Galwan Valley, leading to 20 fatalities among Indian personnel and an unconfirmed number on the Chinese side.
India and China have since been engaged in discussions through established military and diplomatic channels to address the situation along the LAC.
In a report about Tuesday’s meeting, China’s state-run Global Times newspaper quoted a source “close to” the country’s border troops as saying that the two sides have agreed to disengage frontline troops in batches and take measures to ease the situation in the border areas to avoid further escalating the situation.
‘Implementation a challenge on the ground’
ThePrint had reported after the first two rounds of corps commander-level talks, held on 6 June and 22 June, that the two countries had agreed to follow some protocols, such as keeping a distance of at least 100 metres between patrols, desisting from ramming boats and vehicles into each other, avoiding confrontation, and disengagement in case of an eventuality.
The Indian side, it is learnt, had also told China to refrain from carrying out any further construction between Finger 4 and Finger 8 of the Pangong Lake, which constitutes Indian territory.
The countries also discussed the possibility of not deploying additional troops and equipment in the area of the ongoing stand-off at eastern Ladakh, besides stopping new tents and bunker construction activity in friction areas.
Despite the talks so far, sources say, there has not been much of a change in the ground situation. A defence source said implementation of the understanding arrived at by the two sides is a real challenge on the ground.
“In the last round of talks they (the Chinese) had agreed to pull back and prevent further escalation. However, the build-up, especially in the depth areas, has continued,” the source added.
The PLA reportedly deployed cheap and lightweight PCL-181 155 mm vehicle-mounted howitzers at the LAC late last month, with reports also suggesting the deployment of the S-400 air defence systems in Tibet, which adjoins Ladakh.
“To counter the Chinese aggression and buildup, India is not physically moving additional troops in the area, but is keeping the reserve formations prepared and also moving additional stores and other equipment,” the source said.
“If any confidence-building measures are to be implemented, one of the two sides has to make the first move. It remains to be seen who will do that,” the source added.
According to the Indian defence establishment’s assessment, the stand-off in Ladakh could last until the winter as full disengagement is likely to take time.
This report has been updated with additional information