After a three-month hiatus, India and China will conduct Corps Commander-level talks next week. The 14th round of talks to end the 21-month conflict in eastern Ladakh will take place on January 12, according to sources.
The Indian delegation would be led by Lt Gen Anindya Sengupta at the talks. Sengupta, who took over as commander of the Leh-based XIV Corps from Lt Gen PGK Menon on Tuesday, was also present during the previous round of discussions, which were headed by Menon.
The most recent round of discussions follows a series of episodes that have strained the already strained relationship between the two countries. China’s decision to rename over 15 locations in Arunachal Pradesh; the Chinese embassy’s stern letters to Indian parliamentarians for attending a reception hosted by the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile last month; and China’s construction of a bridge on Pangong Tso in an area that India claims is illegally occupied are among the incidents.
“We hope that instead of engaging in such antics, China will work constructively with us to resolve the outstanding friction points in areas along the Western Sector of the LAC in India-China border areas,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said on Thursday, expressing India’s displeasure with the incidents.
India had expected China to agree to retire from Patrolling Point (PP) 15 in Hot Springs during the previous round of discussions, which took place on the Chinese side of the Chushul-Moldo border personnel meeting point on October 10. Not only was there no progress, but the governments published statements following the summit condemning one other. During the talks, India emphasised that “such resolution of the remaining areas will help progress in bilateral ties” and gave “constructive proposals for resolving the remaining areas,” according to the Indian statement. “The Chinese side was not agreeable and also could not present any forward-looking proposals,” the report claimed.
Disengagement has taken place at four out of five of the friction spots that arose in May 2020, according to the government, while Hot Springs remains outstanding. However, there are two more areas in the region that have yet to be settled.
Chinese troops are barring Indian soldiers from entering their regular patrolling limits: PP10, PP11, PP11A, PP12, and PP13 on the Depsang Plains, close to India’s Daulat Beg Oldi camp. On the Indian side of the Charding Nala, which marks the Line of Actual Control, some “so-called civilians” have pitched tents in Demchok (LAC). PP14 in Galwan Valley, north and south banks of Pangong Tso, and PP17A at Gogra Post have been disengaged until now. The first disengagement took occurred in the Galwan Valley just days after the fatal confrontations in June 2020, which claimed the lives of 20 Indian troops and at least four Chinese personnel.
There was a long stalemate after that, with China refusing to move from other locations.
Indian troops outmanoeuvred Chinese forces at the end of August 2020, capturing hitherto unoccupied heights of the Kailash Range in the Chushul sub-sector south of the Pangong lake. Mukhpari, Gurung Hill, Rezang La, and Rechin La were among the peaks that allowed India to control not only the strategically important Spanggur Gap, but also China’s Moldo Garrison.
Indian troops established positions above Chinese troops on the north bank of the Pangong Tso in the finger area in the following days. During this scramble for heights, both sides fired warning shots. At some of these sites in the Kailash Range, troops and tanks were only a few hundred metres apart, and personnel spent severe winters at high heights in an unprecedented deployment.
In January 2021, a breakthrough was achieved during meetings with the Corps Commanders. Both sides withdrew their troops and tanks from the front positions on the north and south banks of the Pangong Tso, including the Kailash Range positions, in February 2021. The next thaw occurred in July 2021, when the two parties agreed to withdraw from PP17A in Gogra Post. A temporary no-patrol zone has been established in all locations where the disengagement took place.
In the eastern Ladakh theatre, both India and China have about 50,000 troops, as well as additional missiles, air defence systems, tanks, and artillery weapons.