New Delhi: India and China are deploying two Lieutenant General-rank officers for talks this week to resolve the ongoing standoff in Ladakh, stepping beyond established protocols as tensions on the border refuse to die down.
India’s 14 Corps Commander will meet the chief of China’s Southern Xinjiang Military District on 6 June in eastern Ladakh after the protocol in place — where talks involve local tactical commanders — failed to resolve the month-long border row.
Military experts have described the step as “unprecedented”, saying it shows India is in for a hard bargain as it looks to find a way out of the border row.
“I have not seen Corps Commander level officers carrying out military talks,” former Northern Army Commander Lt Gen. D.S. Hooda (Retd) said Wednesday as he addressed an online seminar organised by the Delhi-based think-tank Institute of Chinese Studies.
The talks are an indication that current protocols for resolving problems are not working, he added, and called for new protocols.
No breakthrough yet
The proposed lieutenant general-level talks come after multiple rounds of military dialogue, at various levels, failed to achieve any breakthrough even as diplomatic parleys continue between Delhi and Beijing to calm the situation in eastern Ladakh, which has seen a heavy troop build-up and transgressions at a number of locations since early May.
The 6 June meeting is unprecedented because, according to the established protocol, talks are held at the local tactical commander level. In the past, the highest level of talks have involved divisional commanders, who are major general-rank officers.
Lt Gen. Hooda said current protocols, which include showing of flags and banners to defuse the situation when India and Chinese patrol parties come face to face, are not working. “Maybe we should look at new protocols,” he added.
However, addressing the same seminar, Lt Gen. S.L. Narasimhan (Retd), a member of the National Security Advisory Board, called for better implementation of existing protocols.
“We need to work at making the already existing mechanism work more efficiently. I think that will be a better way of doing it rather than going for a new protocol,” he said.
‘Pandemic hasn’t had much impact on PLA’
Both the officers, however, agreed on the fact that the coronavirus pandemic has not had much impact on the modernisation and operational ability of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
“There has been no disruption in PLA modernisation,” Lt Gen. Narasimhan said, adding that Chinese naval and space programmes are on track. Any impact of the pandemic, he said, will only be temporary.
Lt Gen. Narasimhan noted the increase in China’s defence spending in the latest budget (6.6 per cent) and said it is actually higher than the expected growth rate of the Chinese economy.
“A lot of their technology is indigenous and, hence, they have more value for money,” he said, pointing out that India relies on imports to a large extent.