NEW DELHI :
India and China will need to have more talks at the military and diplomatic levels to reduce tensions and pull out troops from their border as they seek to end a seven-week-long standoff in Ladakh, two people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
Senior military commanders—Lt Gen. Harinder Singh, who heads the Leh-based 14 Corps and Major General Liu Lin, commander of China’s South Xinjiang military command—who met at Chushul on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on Tuesday “emphasized the need for an expeditious, phased and step-wise de-escalation as a priority," one of the people cited above said. This comes against the backdrop of India and China deploying thousands of troops backed by artillery, tanks and air support along their border.
“The meeting yesterday (Tuesday) was long and held in a businesslike manner, keeping in view the covid-19 protocols. The discussions reflected the commitment of both sides to reduce tensions along the LAC. The process of disengagement along the LAC is complex," the person said.
“More meetings are expected both at the military and at the diplomatic level, in future, to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution and to ensure peace and tranquillity along the LAC as per bilateral agreements and protocols," the person added, indicating that a solution was not immediately within reach.
In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said India and China “continue working towards implementing the consensus reached at the two earlier rounds of commander-level talks and made progress in effective measures by front line troops to disengage and de-escalate the situation."
“We hope the Indian side will work with the Chinese side towards the same goal, keep up close communication through military and diplomatic channels, and ease the situation and reduce the temperature along the border," he said on the commanders’ meet on Tuesday.
The meeting between the two commanders was the third in June.
“One of the points put across by the Indian side (on Tuesday) was that any disengagement will be verified by using technology (satellite pictures and drones for example) as well as physical verification," said the second person cited above.
According to Deepender Singh Hooda, a former head of the Indian Army’s Northern Command, “the good thing is talks are going on." But words like “complex" and “step by step" indicated that there were issues that both sides still needed to reach an agreement on. “It shows there are difficulties" that are yet to be sorted out, Hooda said—a point that Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor of Chinese studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, concurred with. According to Kondapalli, the two sides agreeing to an “expeditious" process to de-escalate was an expression of intention, not action. Moreover, the call for more talks could buy the Chinese side time to entrench themselves more firmly inside Indian territory, for example, along Pangong Tso, and “present to India as a fait accompli," he warned.
Meanwhile defence minister Rajnath Singh was due to visit Ladakh on Friday, a third person in the know of the matter said. Singh is expected to be accompanied by army chief Manoj Mukund Naravane.