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India-China troops on the LAC (ANI)
India-China troops on the LAC (ANI)

India to review progress on talks with China over border disengagement

  • The focus of Sunday’s talks was the pull back of Chinese troops from the banks of the Pangong Tso lake, one of many friction points along the Line of Actual Control border between the two countries

NEW DELHI : Senior officials and military officers in New Delhi were to review the outcome of the latest round of talks between senior commanders of India and China who had met for a fifth time over the weekend to discuss ways to reduce tensions through the disengagement of troops, two people familiar with the development said on Monday.

The meeting of the China Study Group headed by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval will take stock of the progress of the discussions held on Sunday between Lt Gen Harinder Singh, the Commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps and Major General Liu Lin, Commander of the People’s Liberation Army’s South Xinjiang military region, one of the people cited above said.

The Singh-Liu talks at Moldo on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control began at around 11 am on Sunday and ended at 9.30 pm, which was of a shorter duration than previous sessions that took 12-15 hours. There was no word on Monday on the outcome though.

Indian Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane was to brief Defence Minister Rajnath Singh before attending the China Study Group meeting, the person cited above said.

The focus of Sunday’s talks was the pull back of Chinese troops from the banks of the Pangong Tso lake, one of many friction points along the Line of Actual Control border between the two countries. Tensions between the two countries have been high since May when India noticed intrusions at multiple points along the border in Ladakh including at Pangong Tso. The intrusions and a violent clash between the two sides on 15 June at Galwan Valley – that killed 20 Indian army soldiers and an unknown number from the Chinese side -- exacerbated tensions and have caused ties to plummet to new lows.

Though agreed to earlier, several people familiar with the matter in India have pointed out that the Chinese side has not kept its word on pulling back its troops from the heights of Finger 4 – a mountain spur jutting out into the Pangong Tso lake. The Chinese troops have however moved back from the base of Finger 4 to Finger 5, they have confirmed. India says the LAC runs through Finger 8, situated 8 kilometres from Finger 4 and that Chinese troops have intruded into Indian territory. Last week the Chinese ambassador to India Sun Weidong said that the Chinese perception of LAC at Pangong Tso was at Finger 4 and Chinese troops had not intruded into Indian territory.

“The Chinese do not seem willing to go back to the status quo ante. There has been some disengagement in the Galwan Valley and Hot Springs area. Pangong Tso continues to remain a problem, “the second person cited above said.

Indian analysts say this is part of China’s attempt to change the status quo and then present India with a fait accompli. India has been insisting that Chinese troops return to positions they held in April.

According to a second person familiar with the matter, the Chinese troop presence in the hinterland was as strong as before without any pull back even as the two countries discussed steps to disengage at the military and diplomatic levels.

With the Chinese not showing any inclination to budge, India has started scouting for emergency purchases of weapons, high-altitude clothing and tents for the over 30,000 extra troops deployed in forward locations. Indian embassies in Europe, the US and Russia have been asked to help in procurements with the assessment in the government and the Indian Army that the disengagement process would likely be a long haul.

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