New Delhi: India’s move to occupy heights dominating the southern bank of Pangong Tso and climb up ridges on the northern bank is a “gamble” that could help produce a breakthrough in negotiations with China.
Sources in the defence and security establishment said with India outsmarting China’s attempt to capture fresh territory on the southern bank over the weekend, the message is clear — India is ready to counter any aggression.
The sources said the heights occupied will give India a better bargaining chip for the talks, which have yielded no results since July.
However, the sources indicated that while four rounds of brigadier-level talks have been held, as well meetings between diplomats under the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC), only parleys at higher levels can accelerate things.
ThePrint has learnt that External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi are expected to meet on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) foreign ministers’ meeting next week in Russia. It is also learnt that China has sought a meeting with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who is currently in Russia.
According to Indian diplomatic sources, Jaishankar and Wang are likely to have a “pull-aside” to discuss the “way forward” on the tensions that erupted once again.
Jaishankar and Wang had a one-on-one phone conversation and reached an “understanding” two days after the 15 June Galwan Valley clash in which 20 Indians soldiers were killed.
It’s a ‘gamble’
Sources said the latest move by India, which they underlined was pre-emptive in nature, is a “gamble”, and one has to wait and watch how it plays out.
Diplomatic and military sources maintain that it is still a positive sign that both parties are talking and engaging in a dialogue, even as New Delhi and Beijing are exploring higher diplomatic and military-level talks for a solution.
Sources said during the 2013 Depsang incursion by the Chinese, a bargaining move had been carried out by the Indian Army.
“However, it was very localised. They remained in the Depsang Plains; we made some moves in Chushul. The developments at the LAC since May are not ‘usual’. So, nothing can really be compared to this,” a source explained.
Former Northern Army commander Lt Gen. D.S. Hooda (retd) said: “It will be positive if the latest developments in eastern Ladakh would pave way for forward movement in talks that had been stalled or reached a deadlock.”
Former Army chief Gen. V.P. Malik tweeted that latest moves at the LAC indicate a distinct change in the way India is dealing with China on the border issue. “It is no longer a static policy,” he said.
Rajnath’s Moscow visit
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is in Russia currently to take part in an SCO meet, and China is learnt to have sought a meeting with him. But no bilateral talks have been scheduled between Singh and his Chinese counterpart Gen. Wei Fenghe yet.
However, the ongoing LAC tensions are likely to figure in Singh’s bilateral talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoygu, just like they did when he last travelled to Moscow in June.
Army chief Gen. M.M. Naravane is in Ladakh for two days, during which he will visit forward locations along the LAC and also review the full operational alertness in the region.
Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria is also visiting the frontline air bases in the eastern sector.
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.