India, China corps commanders to meet next week for Ladakh border disengagement talks

File Photo: Chinese and Indian soldiers during their joint exercise.

New Delhi: India and China will hold a military commanders’ meet next week to further thrash out differences over the disengagement of their army soldiers along the Ladakh de facto border, which is yet to be completed. The need for the military talks were felt, as the Chinese side had not adhered to the agreement on the de-escalation at two pain points in Pongong Tso and Depsang Plains.

The fifth meeting between the Corps Commanders of the two armies was agreed upon during a virtual diplomatic meeting between the two sides today. “The two sides agreed that another meeting of the Senior Commanders may be held soon so as to work out further steps to ensure expeditiously complete disengagement and de-escalation and restoration of peace and tranquillity in the border areas,” said a Ministry of External Affairs statement in the evening after the end of the talks.

This was the 17th round of talks under the Working Mechanism for Consultation & Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC), which has met during these 75 days of Ladakh conflict on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) virtually at least three times. The Indian delegation was led by Joint Secretary (East Asia) from the Ministry of External Affairs, while the Director General of the Department of Boundary and Oceanic Affairs of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs led the Chinese delegation.

The two sides reviewed the situation in the India-China border areas and the ongoing disengagement process along the LAC in the western sector of their de facto borders. They agreed that early and complete disengagement of the troops along the LAC and de-escalation from India-China border areas in accordance with bilateral agreement and protocols and full restoration of peace and tranquillity was essential for smooth overall development of bilateral relations.

The two sides noted that this was in accordance with the agreement reached between the two Special Representatives (SRs) during their telephonic conversation on July 5 this year. They agreed in this regard that it was necessary for both sides to sincerely implement the understandings reached between Senior Commanders in their meetings till date. The two sides also agreed to maintain their ongoing engagements both at the diplomatic and military level, including through the meetings of WMCC.

Since early May, the Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army have been engaged in a fierce face-off that had shattered the peace and tranquility on the borders, including a bloody clash on June 15 that led to the death of 20 Indian soldiers and around 40 of the Chinese soldiers, though no numbers have been publicly shared by Beijing on their casualties.

Though the Chinese troops have vacated several places since July 6, including the Galwan Valley where the violent clash took place, the two difficult areas for negotiations between the two militaries have been the Pongong Tso, a boomerang-shaped lake of which one-third is controlled by India and the rest two-thirds by China. The People’s Liberation Army troopers have occupied the ridge on Finger 4 and have not vacated their positions despite a disengagement agreement between the two military commanders.

China claims Finger 4 as its LAC, while India perceives Finger 8, which is 25 km further to the East towards the Chinese side, as its LAC. India has asked for restoration of each other’s military positions as they were in April this year to ensure there is full de-induction of troopers from both the Pongong Tso and the Depsang Plains.

In the next week’s military commanders meeting, India is expected to reiterate this position to the Chinese side, according to Indian Army officers here.

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