New Delhi: The gridlock in eastern Ladakh continues despite a high-level meeting of seven-and-a-half hours between Indian and Chinese military commanders to resolve the month-long crisis on Saturday with ground situation remaining the same.
The Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement Sunday on the talks held Saturday saying “the two sides will continue the military and diplomatic engagements to resolve the situation and to ensure peace and tranquility in the border areas”.
Sources said the meeting, which started around 11.30 am and ended at 7 pm, focussed on understanding each other’s point of contention in eastern Ladakh, paving the way for higher diplomatic parleys.
The Indian delegation was led by 14 Corps Commander Lt Gen Harinder Singh who had to stay back in Chushul for the night as the flying time was over when the talks held at the Chushul-Moldo border personnel meeting point on the Chinese side ended.
The last helicopter flight allowed in the sector in normal circumstances is around 5 pm, and that too for casualty evacuation whereas normal flying is restricted after around 2 pm.
ThePrint had Saturday evening reported, quoting sources in the security establishment, that no one should expect the situation to calm down with just one meeting, indicating that more parleys would take place at various levels, including diplomatic.
The MEA statement said a “meeting was held between the Corps Commander based in Leh and the Chinese Commander on 6 June 2020 in the Chushul-Moldo region”.
The meeting follows a month-long standoff between the two nations in Ladakh along the western sector of the border.
India demanded ‘April status quo’
Sources in the know said the Indian side demanded that the Chinese maintain the status quo as of early April this year.
This meant the Chinese would have to pull back the troop build-up along the Line of Actual Control in Galwan Valley and go back from the transgressions point in the larger Hot Spring Area and the Finger Area of the Pangong Lake.
“The main point of contention is the Finger 4 area of Pangong Lake where the Chinese have come in and built structures to stop the Indian patrol team from going ahead,” a source said.
There were multiple rounds of meetings, including sessions on point of contention in the Pangong Lake where the Chinese have built a bunker and moat-like structure between Finger 3 and 4 to prevent Indian patrol teams from moving ahead.
India claims that the LAC runs till Finger 8. Interestingly, the Chinese had managed to build a road till Finger 5 in 1999 when the Indian troops were diverted from the area to fight the Kargil battle.
India had been trying to build a road from Finger 2, which it dominates, to three and further to help its soldiers travel faster.
The sources said while the Chinese take about less than half an hour to reach down to Finger 4 from its holding point of Srijap, Indian soldiers take about two hours at the minimum because they have to gather greater distance on foot.
The sources told ThePrint that the Chinese, as expected, raised objections to a host of Indian construction activities along the LAC.
The Chinese objections were primarily due to the fact that once the construction activities are completed, the Chinese tactical advantage, as far as movement is concerned, will be over, they said.
No breakthrough, long standoff expected
The sources also said while the Saturday talks were held in a “positive atmosphere”, there was no breakthrough and the ground situation remains the same.
“The meeting on Saturday was to put each other’s point at a higher level. This is not a tactical level issue which will be sorted out through talks at tactical level. More talks will be held and we are prepared for the long haul if needed,” a source said.
The MEA statement said, “Both sides agreed to peacefully resolve the situation in the border areas in accordance with various bilateral agreements and keeping in view the agreement between the leaders that peace and tranquility in the India-China border regions is essential for the overall development of bilateral relations.”
As reported by ThePrint earlier, India has moved a large number of men and material into Ladakh since the stand-off began in early May.