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Eastern Ladakh row: India to press for early and complete disengagement at Monday's military talks

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 11-10-2020 19:24 IST | Created: 11-10-2020 19:24 IST
Eastern Ladakh row: India to press for early and complete disengagement at Monday's military talks

India will press for early and complete disengagement of troops by China from all the friction points in eastern Ladakh at the seventh round of high-level military talks between the two countries on Monday, government sources said. The talks are slated to begin at 12 noon in Chushul on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, they said.

The agenda of the talks will be to firm up a roadmap for disengagement of troops from all the friction points in eastern Ladakh, the sources said. The China Study Group (CSG), comprising Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat and three service chiefs, on Friday finalised India's strategy for the military talks.

The CSG is India's key policy-making body on China. The sources said India will strongly oppose any demand by China for the withdrawal of Indian troops from several strategic heights on the southern bank of the Pangong lake to kick-start the disengagement process.

During the last round of Corps Commander-level talks, the Chinese military insisted on the withdrawal of troops by the Indian Army from several strategic heights in Mukhpari, Rezang La and Magar hill areas around the southern bank of Pangong lake. Indian troops occupied the strategic heights after the Chinese military attempted to intimidate them in the southern bank of Pangong Lake on the intervening night of August 29 and 30.

India has been maintaining that the disengagement process has to start simultaneously at all the friction points. "Indian will again press for early and complete disengagement of troops from all the friction points," said a source, adding that the onus is on the Chinese military to start the process.

At the talks, the two sides are also expected to look into further steps to maintain stability on the ground and avoid any action that may trigger fresh tension in the region where troops from both sides will be facing difficult conditions in the next four months due to harsh winters, the source said. The Indian delegation at the talks will be led by Lt Gen Harinder Singh, the commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps of the Indian Army, and it will comprise Lt Gen PGK Menon and Joint Secretary (East Asia) in the Ministry of External Affairs Naveen Srivastava among others Following the sixth round of military talks on September 21, the two sides announced a slew of decisions including not to send more troops to the frontline, refrain from unilaterally changing the situation on the ground and avoid taking any actions that may further complicate matters.

The military talks were held with a specific agenda of exploring ways to implement a five-point agreement reached between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at a meeting in Moscow on September 10 on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) conclave. The pact included measures like quick disengagement of troops, avoiding action that could escalate tensions, adherence to all agreements and protocols on border management, and steps to restore peace along the LAC.

Days after the military talks, the two sides held diplomatic talks under the framework of Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs, but no concrete outcome emerged from the negotiation on September 30. After the diplomatic talks, the MEA said it was agreed that the next round of the meeting of senior commanders should be held at an early date so that both sides can work towards early and complete disengagement of the troops along the LAC in accordance with the existing bilateral agreement and protocols.

Srivastava, who has been leading the Indian side at the WMCC talks, also attended the military talks on September 21 for the first time. It will be Lt Gen Singh's last round of talks with the Chinese military as he will take charge as head of the prestigious Indian Military Academy around October 15.

Lt Gen Menon will succeed Lt Gen Singh as the commander of 14 Corps on October 14. At the previous six rounds of Corps commander-level talks, the Indian side led by Lt Gen Singh insisted on complete disengagement of Chinese troops at the earliest, and immediate restoration of status quo ante in all areas of eastern Ladakh prior to April.

The face-off between the Indian and Chinese armies began on May 5. The situation in eastern Ladakh deteriorated following at least three attempts by the Chinese military to "intimidate" Indian troops along the northern and southern bank of Pangong lake area between August 29 and September 8 where even shots were fired in the air for the first time at the LAC in 45 years.

As the tensions escalated further, the foreign ministers of the two countries held talks in Moscow on September 10 where they reached on the five-point agreement to defuse the situation in eastern Ladakh. The agreement was the basis for the sixth round of Corps commander-level talks.

In the last three months, the Indian Army rushed tanks, heavy weaponry, ammunition, fuel, food and essential winter supplies into various treacherous and high-altitude areas of the region to maintain combat readiness through the harsh winter of around four months beginning mid-October..



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