NEW DELHI: India made a renewed push for China to complete troop disengagement at Pangong Tso and Gogra areas as well as pullback from the Depsang Plains in eastern
during top-level military talks between the two countries on Sunday.
There was no official word on the outcome of the fifth round of talks between 14 Corps commander Lt-General Harinder Singh and South Xinjiang Military District chief Major General Liu Lin, which began after 11am and continued till late in the night on the Chinese of the Chushul-Moldo border personnel meeting point.
But the talks were held amid the continuing Chinese refusal to even disengage fully on the north bank of Pangong Tso as well as Patrolling Point (PP)-17A at Gogra, let alone begin de-escalation and eventual de-induction of the over 30,000 troops each amassed by both sides along the Line of Actual Control (
) in eastern Ladakh.
Consequently, India’s quest for restoration of status quo as it existed in April is still nowhere on the horizon. “The military talks seem to be going nowhere, with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) refusing to fully adhere to the disengagement process finalized during the fourth round of talks on July 14. Higher political-diplomatic intervention may be needed,” said an official.
The PLA has been particularly adamant about not withdrawing eastwards from the 8-km stretch it has occupied from ‘Finger-4’ to ‘Finger-8’ (mountainous spurs jutting into the lake) after building scores of new fortifications and gun positions on the north bank of Pangong Tso since early-May.
India contends the PLA, which initially withdrew from the ‘base’ of Finger-4 but did not vacate the ridgeline there, must pull back all the way to ‘Finger-8’ since the LAC runs north to south there. But Chinese ambassador to India Sun Weidong openly rejected this just four days ago, claiming “China’s traditional customary boundary line is in accordance with the LAC” on the north bank of the lake.
India had earlier not insisted on holding the corps commander-level dialogue on July 30, as was initially proposed, due to lack of concrete progress on the ground despite several rounds of military and diplomatic talks. But the PLA called for the meeting late on Saturday evening to set the stage for the talks on Sunday.
The ongoing military stand-off in eastern Ladakh has already lasted for 90 days, which even saw 20 Indian and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers being killed in an extended bloody skirmish in Galwan Valley on June 15, in the first such incident in 45 years.
Though there has been no violence since June 15, the troop disengagement has been fully completed only at PP-14 in Galwan Valley and PP-15 in Hot Springs. The PLA has also remained recalcitrant about its deep intrusion into what India considers its territory in the strategically-located Depsang-Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) sector.
Camping near the “Bottleneck” area in the Depsang area, PLA troops have been blocking Indian soldiers from going to their traditional PPs-10, 11, 12 and 13 for around three months now.
India of course has matched the troop, artillery and armour build-ups in “depth areas” in all the three sectors of the 3,488-km LAC – western (Ladakh), middle (Uttarakhand, Himachal) and eastern (Sikkim, Arunachal) – by the PLA. It has also kicked off massive “advance winter stocking” for forward deployed troops in preparation for the anticipated long haul in the military confrontation.