The much-hyped meeting of military commanders of the Indian Army and Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) ended after four-hour-long marathon discussions on Saturday, as the face-off between both sides in Eastern Ladakh continues after over a month of tensions.
Though authorities from both sides refrained from making any official statement, a source indicated that the meeting is believed not to have led to any immediate breakthrough.
The meeting was “inclusive” but in a “positive direction”, a senior military officer said, without giving further details.
While the Indian delegation was headed by Leh-based XIV Corps Commander Lt General Harinder Singh, the Chinese side was led by Maj Gen Lin Liu, Xinjiang military district chief. The meeting took place at the Chushul-Mondo Border Personnel Meeting point, which is on the Chinese side.
Sources said that the meeting, which was scheduled to start at 8:30 am, was delayed and started at 11.00 am.
In the four-hour-long meeting, while the Indian side insisted on the restoration of the status quo prior to May 5, the Chinese side is learnt to have expressed concern over India’s ongoing infrastructure on the border
A detailed report has been sent to the Army Chief General MM Naravane and will be further shared with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and the Ministry of External Affairs.
Today’s meeting was the highest level of military engagement between the two sides and was “unprecedented”, as a Lieutenant General-ranked officer from the Indian Army (a three-star General officer who commands a Corps, the Indian Army’s Field Formation) led the border dispute talks from the Indian side with his Chinese counterparts.
According to official sources, PLA troops have made advancements into certain Indian occupied territories in the Galwan valley and Pangong Tso Lake region in Ladakh, significantly building up its military presence with a massive deployment of infantry soldiers, artillery guns and logistic support along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh sector.
For over a month, Indian and Chinese forces have been in a eyeball-to-eyeball situation and over 5,000 Chinese PLA troops (the strength of a Brigade) are camped in four-to-five locations in the Galwan valley region, the northern bank of Pangong lake, and Demchok. Multiple sources have confirmed that Chinese have intruded well into the Indian side of the LAC. The Indian side is doing the mirror mobilisation of force, deploying a similar number of artillery and armoured and infantry troops to that of the PLA along the stand-off sites.
Earlier eight rounds of local military-level talks happened including two Major-General level talks to defuse the tension.
Military observers believe that situation along the face-off locations has somewhat stabilised as no further escalations or incidents of violence between Indian and Chinese army have been reported.
Another official maintained that face-offs between the two sides during patrols are not “unusual” as they tend to disengage quickly following the laid-down procedures. But this time, however, the Chinese patrol had more number of troops than regular patrols.
One observer said that today’s meeting would pave the way for diplomatic-level talks at the Special Representative level. He added, however, that border issue has not been resolved in 30 years of negotiations where both sides have attended 22 rounds of Special Representatives level talks.
China disputes its boundary with India, as it does not agree with the legality of the McMahon Line Line, asserting that it was drawn by the imperialist British power.
Chinese troops have pitched tents on India side of LAC on Galwan river and Demchok areas. It is believed that Chinese troops had objected to road construction activities in the DBO and Galwan Nala (river) area. The alignment of the Darbuk-Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) 255 km improves Indian military’s connectivity with DBO and allows movement of men and material, has caused serious trouble to the Chinese military.
The large presence of Chinese troops in the area is seen at four points on the Galwan River between the Patrolling Point 14 to a location called Gogra on the LAC.
An official claimed that the main aim of the PLA was to stop construction of the feeder road joining the DBO Road completed last year.
“Chinese military do have the tendency to assert its claim on the LAC. Though, they are entitled to do whatever they do in their territory, but not on the ‘disputed’ area,” an official added. There are about 23 “disputed and sensitive areas” on the Line of Actual Control, stretching from Arunachal Pradesh to Ladakh region. The other sensitive areas in Ladakh include Trig Heights, Dumchele, Chumar, Spanggur Gap and Pangong Tso. And Namkha Chu, Sumdorong Chu, Asaphila, Dichu, Yangtse, Fish Tail-I & II in Dibang Valley in Arunachal. Barahoti, Kaurik & Shipki La in the middle sector.
Some analysts believe that the PLA’s aggression can be seen as Beijing’s strategic warning to India. The Chinese government apparently did not like the Indian government’s new rule that notified blocked Chinese companies from acquiring Indian firms without government approval. Moreover, China also did not like the United State’s growing influence in India.