Ladakh standoff: 7th round of talks today, foreign ministries reps to attend

No peace deal expected, sources say; over 50,000 troops from both side amass on border as winter sets in

Ladakh
Indian and Chinese forces have been engaged in a standoff at key friction points in eastern Ladakh since May. Photo: iStock

The seventh round of corps commander-level talks between India and China will take place on Monday (October 12) to discuss disengagement of the over five-month-long military standoff in eastern Ladakh. This will be the last meeting to be led by XIV Corps Commander Lt General Harinder Singh before he hands over the command to Lt General P G K Menon, who will take over the week.

Lt General Singh, who will complete his one-year tenure as the corps commander on October 14, will move to head the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun.

The meeting on Monday will take place on the Indian side of the Chushul-Moldo Border Personnel Meeting Point.

Monday’s talks will be the first in which both sides will have senior military commanders and representatives of foreign ministries. While the Indian delegation included a diplomat during the last meeting on September 21, the Chinese side too will include a foreign ministry official on Monday.

Ministry of External Affairs Joint Secretary for East Asia, Naveen Srivastava, who has been representing India in the discussions, was part of the senior military commander talks the last time, which had also included Menon, who was posted in the Army headquarters in Delhi.

Senior defence establishment sources said the Army will have another senior official representing the headquarters Monday.

A top Army source said: “There is no expected breakthrough of a peace deal”.

The Army is ready for winter deployment of additional troops. Both sides have around 50,000 soldiers each, along with air defence assets, artillery and tanks in the region. As the winter sets in, there might be a reduction in some troops from the heights, but that will depend on whether China withdraws some troops.

This will be the seventh time the corps commanders from both sides will meet since the standoff began in early May. Major General Liu Lin, Commander of the South Xinjiang Military Region, has represented China in all these meetings.

During the previous talks, sources had said that while India had asked for the entire eastern Ladakh region to be discussed, China had insisted that Indian troops move back from their new positions in the Chushul sub-sector. Sources mentioned that there was “no commonality between our proposals” in the last meeting.

After some initial disengagement in early July, the last three rounds of the senior commanders’ meetings have not yielded any success.

After the last meeting, the two sides had issued a joint statement in which both had agreed not to send any more troops to the frontline. The joint statement had mentioned that both sides had agreed “to earnestly implement the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries, strengthen communication on the ground, avoid misunderstandings and misjudgments, stop sending more troops to the frontline, refrain from unilaterally changing the situation on the ground, and avoid taking any actions that may complicate the situation”.

However, there has not been any change in the ground situation. At several positions in the Chushul sub-sector, and on the north bank of Pangong lake, troops from both sides continue to be separated by just a few hundred metres.

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