NEW DELHI :
Senior military commanders and diplomats from India and China are slated to hold talks this week in an attempt to break the impasse and reduce tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) by disengaging troops, said two people, requesting anonymity, on Monday.
On Tuesday, Lt General Harinder Singh of the Leh-based 14 Corps is expected to sit down for talks with Major General Liu Lin, commander of the South Xinjiang Military District, at Chushul, on the Indian side of the LAC. The last two meetings between the two—on 6 June and 22 June—were at Moldo, on the Chinese side of the LAC. At the 22 June meeting, the commanders reached “mutual consensus to disengage", but there is no news of a pull out of troops yet.
Later, the “Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC)", led by a joint secretary level officer in India’s foreign ministry, and his Chinese counterpart, are expected to meet. The two sides had met on Wednesday via video link. Though both said they would keep channels of communication open, so far there was no progress on bridging the differences.
The two rounds of talks are expected to ensure tensions on the ground are contained by adhering to an understanding arrived at on 6 June. At the time, Singh and Liu agreed that both sides would de-escalate and disengage troops, moving them back by 2-5km in Galwan Valley and Hotsprings areas in Ladakh. But there is no progress on the ground.
“I am not very optimistic that these talks will yield a breakthrough," said Harsh Pant, a professor of international relations at the London-based King’s College. “Clearly, with the kind of military positioning and reinforcements that the two sides have along the border, it looks like they are digging in for the long haul. The good thing is that they are talking."
Ties between India and China have been under strain since early May, when New Delhi said Chinese troops have blocked its army personnel from patrolling along the LAC. After Beijing sent in additional troops along the border, New Delhi responded with similar build-up. China, on its part, blamed India for intruding into its territory, and held it responsible for triggering a major clash on 15 June, resulting in the death of 20 Indian soldiers, including a colonel.
According to satellite pictures, which have not been verified by the Indian Army or the defence ministry, China has made major inroads into what is seen as Indian territory along the Pangong lake and Galwan Valley. Chinese intrusions have also been reported from Depsang plains, which lie in the north of Galwan Valley.
“For India, it will not be possible to take anything that the Chinese say at face value; there will be a need to verify the situation on the ground," Pant said. The positions of the two countries are so divergent that a breakthrough seems unlikely, he said adding that “this situation is expected to continue for a while".