There was no official word on the outcome of the 19th round of corps commander-level talks, which began at 9.30 am on the Indian side of the Chushul-Moldo border meeting point in eastern Ladakh. Unusually, the talks finished by around 5.30pm, instead of continuing till late into the night.
Latest LAC talks come ahead of Brics meet
While there was no immediate information on China’s response at the military dialogue, led by 14 Corps commander Lt-General Rashim Bali and the South Xinjiang Military District chief, it came just ahead of the BRICS summit in South Africa on August 22-24, where both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping will be present. Xi is also slated to visit India for the G20 summit on September 9 and 10.
“The military talks were conducted in a frank, cordial and in-depth manner on Monday. Let’s wait for a formal outcome after clearance from the political leadership,” a top official said, on being contacted by TOI.
For a thaw to take place in the tense military confrontation in eastern Ladakh, which is into its fourth year now, China will have to agree to restore patrolling rights of Indian soldiers by following the sequential process of disengagement, de-escalation and de-induction. Sources said the Indian delegation made it clear that the long-pending troop disengagement at Depsang, towards the crucial Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) and Karakoram Pass in the north, and the Charding Ninglung Nallah (CNN) track junction at Demchok is a prerequisite for the eventual de-escalation and de-induction of the over 50,000 soldiers each forward deployed by the two armies with heavy weapon systems.
The corps commander-level talks on Monday were held after a gap of almost four months, with no breakthrough being recorded in the 18th round on April 23. “China’s top political-military hierarchy has so far has stalled any forward movement in the talks, with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) putting forth proposals that were unacceptable to India,” a source said.
“If China wants overall bilateral relations to improve, it will first have to restore peace and tranquillity on the border. It was after all the PLA that altered the status quo on the Line of Actual Control in April-May 2020 in a pre-planned manner,” he added.
While the CNN track junction is relatively easy to resolve, Depsang poses a major problem. The PLA has been actively blocking Indian patrols around 18km inside what India considers its own territory in the Depsang Bulge area, a table-top plateau located at an altitude of 16,000 feet.
With the no-patrol buffer zones varying from 3km to 10km coming up largely on Indian territory after disengagement in areas like Pangong Tso-Kailash range, Galwan Valley and Gogra-Hot Springs, Indian troops can no longer access 26 of their 65 patrolling points that begin from the Karakoram Pass to Chumar in eastern Ladakh.