India, China to hold talks on defusing LAC tensions next week2 min read . Updated: 05 Oct 2020, 06:53 AM IST
The composition of the Indian delegation for the next round of talks could remain the same as that of 21 September when the two sides met at Moldo on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC)
Senior military commanders of India and China are expected to meet next on 12 October in an effort to strengthen a temporary truce and chalk out steps to defuse protracted tensions along their heavily militarized border.
The composition of the Indian delegation for the next round of talks could remain the same as that of 21 September when the two sides met at Moldo on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The Indian delegation was led by Lt Gen. Harinder Singh who heads the Leh-based 14 Corps that oversees security of the Ladakh sector. The delegation also comprised Lt Gen. P.G.K. Menon who is expected to succeed Singh on 15 October. For the first time, the last round of talks included a senior diplomat, Naveen Srivastava, who is in charge of the China desk in the foreign ministry.
The 21 September talks yielded a joint statement—the first since the two delegations began the negotiations in June to end the border crisis that started in May when India detected multiple Chinese intrusions into Ladakh.
Key among the agreements reached in the last round of talks was that the two sides would “strengthen communication on the ground" and take steps “to avoid misunderstandings and misjudgements" leading to an aggravation of the situation on the ground.
While exchanging “candid" and “in-depth" views “on stabilizing the situation along the LAC in the India-China border areas", the two delegations also agreed to “stop sending more troops to the frontline, refrain from unilaterally changing the situation on the ground, and avoid taking any actions that may complicate the situation," the joint statement said.
The 21 September talks between the two delegations had “spoken of early and complete disengagement and de-escalation," said Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor of Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University. The two delegations could look at steps to ensure there were no local level skirmishes that could in turn impact broader bilateral ties, he said. Kondapalli also pointed to Chinese ambassador to India Sun Weidong’s comments at an online event ahead of China’s national day on 1 October which had seemed conciliatory in nature. “I suspect there will be hard bargaining by both sides (at the 12 October) meeting," he said. “Winter is a common enemy and they may come up with some arrangement that is satisfactory to both sides," he said when asked whether the upcoming meeting could lead to a partial pull-back of troops by both sides.
India and China had previously worked out some steps to disengage troops, said to be approximately numbering 100,000 on both sides of the border. But the initial plans ran aground after a violent clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers in Galwan on 15 June that resulted in the death of 20 Indian and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers. Tensions shot up again at the end of August with India securing vantage positions on the south bank of the Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh. Soldiers of the two sides fired warning shots in the air in two separate incidents in early September – the first such instances in 45 years – adding to the uncertainties.
However a meeting between the two foreign ministers S Jaishankar of India and Wang Yi of China seemed to set the stage for an uneasy calm that currently prevails. Indian Air Force chief Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria last week described the situation as “not war, not peace."