Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

India, China talks complete a year, issues not fully resolved

- Rahul Singh

The Indian and Chinese armies began negotiatio­ns to resolve the border row in eastern Ladakh exactly a year ago, but the two sides have only had limited success in hammering out an agreement for disengagem­ent of rival soldiers deployed at friction points on the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC), people tracking the military talks said on Saturday.

The Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have held 11 rounds of talks between corps commander-ranked officers since June 6, 2020 to reduce tensions along the disputed border.

The only significan­t outcome of the military dialogue has been the disengagem­ent of front-line troops and weaponry in the Pangong Tso sector in mid-february after the ninth round of talks, one of the officials cited above said on condition of anonymity. “Disengagem­ent is stuck at the other friction points. Talks have not made any headway in resolving the problems at Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang. Negotiatio­ns are on but there is no end in sight to the standoff. We will continue to engage the Chinese side to find a solution,” said a second official, asking not to be named.

Both armies have 50,000 to 60,000 troops each in the Ladakh theatre and the deployment­s haven’t thinned after the disengagem­ent in the Pangong Tso sector. On May 28, army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said his soldiers were on high alert as the PLA continued to base its troops and mechanised elements including tanks in its “immediate depth” across the LAC from where they could be deployed to forward areas at short notice. (Immediate depth in the context of the Ladakh sector refers to a distance of 150 km to 200 km from the LAC.)

Naravane said results should not be expected after every round of talks, citing the case of Pangong Tso, where disengagem­ent took place after nine rounds.

The corps commanders’ meetings have had mixed results as those talks were successful in negotiatin­g the disengagem­ent in the Pangong Tso area but there has been no further progress, said former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda (retd).

“It is important to understand that success in negotiatio­ns between military commanders has to be preceded by groundwork that is laid by polit

Both sides reached a mutual consensus to disengage from all friction areas along the LAC. No progress on ground.

At the third round of talks, both armies stressed on the need for an expeditiou­s, phased and step-wise de-escalation of the border conflict on priority.

Top Indian and Chinese military commanders met for the fifth time, negotiatio­ns made no progress due to serious difference­s between the two armies in the Finger Area near Pangong Tso.

India and China agreed to continue the dialogue process to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution for early disengagem­ent in the eastern Ladakh theatre.

The two armies agreed “to exercise restraint and avoid misunderst­anding and miscalcula­tion” along the LAC. ical and diplomatic engagement­s. We saw this happening prior to the ninth round of military talks where both sides worked out the modalities for disengagem­ent from Pangong Tso. A similar combined effort is required,” Hooda said.

He added that the military commanders by themselves cannot take any decisions unless the principles of an agreement have been worked out at the political or diplomatic level.

The Indian Army’s focus is on resolving outstandin­g problems with the PLA at Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang, but the disengagem­ent process has hit a wall as a result of the PLA’S reluctance to pull back its forward deployed troops and restore the status quo ante of April 2020, as previously reported by Hindustan Times.

The Indian Army’s patrolling activity has been affected in Hot Springs and Gogra, where rival troops are forward deployed and where skeletal disengagem­ent took place last year, but the gains could not be consolidat­ed.

The PLA’S deployment­s in Depsang have also hindered access of Indian soldiers to routes including the ones leading to Patrolling Points (PP) 10, 11, 11-A, 12 and 13. To be sure, the

Both sides agreed to resolve outstandin­g issues at other friction points in a “steady and orderly” manner, were unanimous that the Pangong Tso disengagem­ent provided “a good basis” for resolving pending problems. problems at Depsang predate the current border standoff.

“Disengagem­ent is just the first phase of a broader, more comprehens­ive plan of establishi­ng the status quo ante of April 2020. It will be followed by de-escalation and finally de-induction of forces. We continue to remain vigilant,” Naravane said on May 28.

The two armies held the first round of military talks on June 6, 2020.

However, the Galwan Valley skirmish on June 15, 2020 created severe complicati­ons and dashed hopes of any significan­t breakthrou­gh.

The brutal clash that left 20 Indian soldiers and an undisclose­d number of Chinese troops dead created a huge trust deficit between the two sides.

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