Sunday, February 28, 2021

India, China hold military talks to defuse LAC tensions

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India and China on Sunday held yet another round of military talks in their latest attempt to ease tensions in eastern Ladakh where the two sides have been locked in a lingering border standoff that has hit bilateral ties. This comes at a time when frontline soldiers are deployed eyeball to eyeball at friction points on the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC), officials familiar with the development said.

The corps commander-level talks between the Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were held at Moldo on the Chinese side of the LAC. The outcome of the ninth round of military dialogue was not known when this report was filed.

The situation in the Ladakh sector remains tense and the ongoing military and diplomatic dialogue has not yielded results. “The ground situation remains as it was in August-September (when the Indian Army took control of key heights on the southern bank of Pangong Tso). The military dialogue alone is unlikely to yield results. Diplomatic efforts will have to progress simultaneously,” said one of the officials cited above.

India has consistently pushed for comprehensive disengagement at all flashpoints and restoration of status quo ante of early April 2020 during the ongoing military talks whereas the Chinese side wants the Indian Army to first pull back troops deployed on strategic heights on the southern bank of Pangong Tso.

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“Neither side is willing to vacate the positions held by them. It seems unlikely that the standoff will be resolved in the short term. However, talks will go on as it is important not to break communication,” said a second official.

Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria on Saturday said that India was ready to match China’s aggression in the eastern Ladakh theatre, where the two countries have been locked in a border row since May 2020. “If they (China) can get aggressive, we will also get aggressive. We have full preparations (to meet any eventuality,” said the IAF chief.

Last month, he said the likely reasons for Chinese actions in the Ladakh sector could include a planned escalation and an attempt to establish border claim lines and start border talks on the new positions, military signalling, domination efforts with escalation control and deployment and training of their Western Theatre forces in real war-like scenarios wherein the Galwan Valley incident was an overreach.

Senior Indian and Chinese commanders had met on November 6 for the eighth round of military talks. India has made all preparations to hold ground in Ladakh for an extended duration.

On January 12, army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said that the Indian Army was prepared to hold its ground in eastern Ladakh “for as long as it takes” to achieve national objectives in case the ongoing military and diplomatic talks with China are prolonged.

Experts said talks are deadlocked because of serious differences between the two sides on the conditions of disengagement, as previously reported by SNN.

The PLA has moved back at least 10,000 soldiers from depth areas to rear positions but its frontline deployments remain unchanged.

Earlier, Naravane said India should not read too much into the withdrawal of Chinese troops from depth areas on the Tibetan plateau as there has been absolutely no troop cut by either side at friction points.

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