NEW DELHI: The fourth round of talks between senior military commanders of India and China will take place on Tuesday, a person familiar with the development said. The discussions are expected to cover a second and more complex phase of de-escalation and disengagement by troops of both the countries in eastern Ladakh.
The talks between Lt General Harinder Singh and Major General Liu Lin of the Chinese Liberation Army (PLA) who is in charge of the South Xinjiang Military District come after a round of talks between senior diplomats of India and China via video link on Friday, with both reiterating their intention to "ensure complete disengagement" along the LAC. The discussions will happen in Chushul on the Indian side of the border. Previous rounds of talks between Singh and Liu were held on 6 June, 22 June and 30 June.
Tensions between India and China, who share a 3,488 kilometre long Line of Actual Control (LAC) border, have been running high since 5 May. On 15 June, violent clashes between the troops of the two countries in Galwan Valley at PP 14 claimed lives of 20 Indian soldiers and unspecified number of casualties on the Chinese side.
Relations, regarded as uneasy, were kept stable by both till the clash, by adhering to a slew of pacts signed since 1993.
Last week, troops of the two countries pulled back from three friction points—PP (patrolling point) 14,15 and 17A, with soldiers creating a buffer zone of 3-4 km depth. This was done to ensure that troops that are separated at some points along their LAC in Ladakh by 600 m or less do not engage with each other.
Disengagement at PP 14, 15 and 17A has been regarded as relatively easy, according to analysts. They say the challenging part is the withdrawal of Chinese troops from the banks of Pangong Tso and the Depsang Plains – situated west of PP 14,15 and 17A.
“My sense is that the two commanders will take stock of the situation, what has happened since their last round of talks (on 30 June) and then talks about the more issues like Pangong Tso and Depsang," said Lt General (retired) Deepender Singh Hooda, a former chief of the Indian Army’s Northern Command under which Ladakh also falls. “Here my sense is that you can’t have the same set of rules that have guided de-escalation and disengagement at PP 14,15 and 17A," Hooda said pointing out that at these points -- Pangong Tso and Depsang Plains -- the Indian perception is that the Chinese have entered Indian territory. “I think that at these two points, India will ask for the restoration of status quo ante," he said referring to New Delhi’s demand that Chinese troops step back to positions that they held in April prior to the tensions breaking out.
India has been in control of one-third of Pangong Tso lake and the Chinese of the remaining two-thirds for years. In the past China held its position at Finger 8 9one of a series of mountain folds jutting into the lake) but used to patrol upto Finger 4. India held upto Finger 4 and used to patrol to Finger 8. In May, the Chinese intruded as far as Finger 4. Though there is some amount of pull back, Chinese troops are in what is seen as Indian territory. Similar is the case in the Depsang area towards the west of the lake where a previous Chinese intrusion in 2013 had blocked India’s patrol access considerably.