New Delhi: India is likely to hold another round of talks between the special representatives (SR) of New Delhi and Beijing to discuss the status quo amid reports of fresh clashes between Indian and Chinese soldiers on the southern bank of Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh.
The clash took place on the intervening night of 29 August and 30 August. This comes two months after both sides had a violent face-off on 15 June in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed in the Galwan Valley.
According to top Indian diplomatic and security sources, New Delhi has not ruled out the option of holding another “follow-up” virtual meeting of the SRs, picking up from what they had discussed on 5 July when both had agreed for “earliest complete disengagement”.
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese State Councillor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi are the SRs of India and China on the Boundary Question.
While the last round of talks focussed on disengagement and de-escalation, it is important that both SRs now speak on the matter at the earliest in order “to prevent a repeat of 15 June” and restore the status quo, said an official.
According to the official, while China is pushing to unilaterally change the status quo, India is looking to resolve the matter diplomatically.
“Talks are on at local commanders level and will take place at other military and diplomatic levels as required,” said another official, hinting at the fact that SR talks are not ruled out.
A Brigade Commander level Flag Meeting is in progress at Chushul to resolve the issues. After this meeting, sources said, the level of diplomatic engagement will be discussed.
A joint secretary-level meeting between diplomats of both sides under the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on India-China border affairs is also going to be held soon.
The last round was held on 20 August. The WMCC is one of the bilateral frameworks instituted to resolve tensions.
Past efforts to resolve the border tensions
According to the Army, “On the night of 29/30 August, Chinese troops violated the previous consensus arrived at during military and diplomatic engagements during the ongoing standoff in eastern Ladakh and carried out provocative military movements to change the status quo.
“Indian troops preempted this PLA activity on the Southern Bank of Pangong Tso Lake, undertook measures to strengthen our positions and thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change facts on ground.”
Last week, the Ministry of External Affairs had said diplomatic dialogue could be the only way out of the standoff with China in Ladakh, where disengagement efforts have failed to resolve tensions in the Depsang Plains and Pangong lake areas.
Earlier this month, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat had said India has “military options” to deal with China on the issue of transgressions, but he made it clear that they will only be exercised if talks at the military and diplomatic levels fail.
India’s Ambassador to China Vikram Misri has also been meeting senior leaders of the Chinese Communist Party to resolve the ongoing tensions.