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Photo: PTI
Photo: PTI

India, China hold military talks in hopes to sustain temporary truce

The prime focus of the talks was the implementation of the five-point plan

India and China began the sixth round of talks at the level of senior military commanders on Monday. The talks are seen as crucial in testing whether a five-point agreement, arrived at jointly between the foreign ministers of India and China earlier this month that set the stage for a seeming truce, can be carried forward.

The Indian delegation to the talks included Naveen Srivastava, joint secretary in the Indian foreign ministry who heads the China desk. The previous rounds of talks at the level of corps commanders did not see the inclusion of a diplomat.

The Indian delegation, led by Lt General Harinder Singh of the Indian Army, also has Lt General P.G.K. Menon who is expected to take over from Singh next month as the head of the Leh-based 14 Corps. The delegation included Major General Abhijeet Bapat, Major General Param Shekhawat and the head of the paramilitary Indo Tibetan Border Police Deepam Seth.

The Chinese delegation was expected to be headed by Major General Liu Lin of South Xinjiang Military region as on previous occasions.

The talks are taking place at Moldo on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.

“It is a crisis situation that we have at the border, one of armed stalemate" for four months, said Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor of Chinese Studies at the New Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University. The options before India and China who have mobilized tens of thousands of troops is either to have a “full fledged war," a “localized war", or peace, he said. Armies are charged with the protection of territorial integrity, but it is the business of foreign ministries to “find a compromise", Kondapalli said.

“This is unique situation. Whatever conclusions India and China arrive at, they will do so in a cautious manner," he said.

The last round of military talks took place on 2 August and ended in a deadlock with the Chinese side reluctant to pull back from Finger 4 at Pangong Lake and Patrolling Point 17A. In late August, the Indian Army took commanding positions atop strategic mountains, reversing some of its initial disadvantages vis a vis the Chinese in Ladakh.

At the talks that began on Monday, India is expected to insist that China “withdraw from all friction points with a timeline on de-induction of mechanized and motorized division", said a person familiar with the matter. India will also seek the withdrawal of Chinese forces from Depsang plains in the west to PangongTso in the east besides the “free and unhindered access to Indian forces to all patrol points", the person said.

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