Ladakh face-off | India set for more talks on LAC

An IAF fighter aircraft flies over a forward airbase near the India-China border on July 4, 2020.   | Photo Credit: ANI

A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise visit to the Union Territory of Ladakh, the government is preparing for the next round of meeting of the ‘Special Representatives of India and China on the Boundary Question,’ as it looks for military and diplomatic measures to ease the tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, according to a senior Home Ministry official.

Also read: Age of expansionism is over, Narendra Modi says in Ladakh

The Hindu has not been able to confirm the date of the meeting.

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, who is India’s Special Representative, met his Chinese counterpart last on December 21, 2019 in New Delhi. It was agreed then “that an early settlement of the boundary question serves the fundamental interests of both countries.”

‘One on one’ with Lt. Gen.

Mr. Modi, who spent the day in Ladakh on Friday, a first after the June 15 Galwan incident that killed 20 soldiers, had a “one on one” with Lt. Gen. Harinder Singh, GOC XIV ‘Fire and Fury’ Corps. Lt. Gen. Singh is leading the Corps Commander level talks with the Chinese. He has had three meetings- on June 6, 22 and 30 with his Chinese counterpart, Maj. Gen. Liu Lin, Commander of South Xinjiang Military region, since the build-up and the violent face- offs began in April-May.

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Mr. Modi spent a considerable time with Lt. Gen. Singh and the former was given a detailed briefing on the ongoing military level talks, the official said. Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat and Army Chief Gen. M.M Narawane, who accompanied Mr. Modi from Delhi, were not part of the meeting.

“There are too many voices in Delhi. The Lt. Gen. is flooded with suggestions before and after the talks with the Chinese. What is required now is clear cogent directions,” said the official.

Also read: Ladakh face-off | Tense standoff continues along LAC

Verification to begin

A second official said that beginning Sunday (July 5), the verification process of whether the Chinese have removed structures, as agreed, at Galwan Valley would start.

In the June 30 meeting, the two sides decided to verify the de-escalation at all the friction points. The official said, “After the June 15 incident, the Chinese built stone walls or semi bunkers within India’s perception of the LAC at the very same point where the clashes occured. Indian troops also have a matching bunker and structure there, primarily used as a protection from hurling of stones. On July 5, we will carry out a survey to verify if China has removed the structure or not.”

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As per the June 30 disengagement plan, the two military commanders indicated that at first de-escalation would take place at all the friction points and then “depth areas” such as the Depsang plains in the north, where China has amassed troops, would be looked into.

“For Galwan, the agreed timeline, to remove structures, men and vehicles is 3 days, in Pangong Tso and Hot Springs it is 5 days. In the June 30 meeting, the Chinese were confronted that they have not acted on their assurances and apart from minor reduction in presence of troops, no other action has been taken,” said the official. Finding a solution to the build-up in Finger area at Pangong was likely to take time and forces have been asked to prepare for a long haul, he noted.

If disengagement happens as planned, then a 30-day moratorium on patrolling of troops at contentious points would be the next step, the official stated.

Also read: China’s claim over Galwan is unprecedented, say experts

The entire stretch along the LAC in Ladakh has witnessed “worrisome hardening of Chinese positions” since April-May, with China occupying a considerable area from Finger 4 to 8 near Pangong Tso (lake). The distance between Finger 4-8, the mountainous spurs abutting the lake, is around 8 km. This was till now patrolled both by India and China and India’s perception of LAC ends at Finger 8.

The first official said Mr. Modi’s ’s visit was kept a secret until Friday morning and even the Ladakh administration was not aware of it.

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 12:25:49 PM |

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