Rajnath rules out troop cut ahead of 9th round of India-China military talks

Reduction in troops won’t happen unless China initiates the process, he said ahed of the talks on Sunday amid the eight-month-long standoff in eastern Ladakh and fresh Chinese activities in Arunachal

The controversy erupted amid reports that Indian and Chinese soldiers had completed disengagement from PP 15 in the Gogra-Hot Springs area | Photo for Representational Purposes Only

Amid reports that China is developing a village in the Arunanchal Pradesh area and a continued standoff in eastern Ladakh, India and China will hold the ninth round of corps commander-level military talks on January 23.

Ahead of the talks, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has made it clear that India will not reduce its troops facing the People’s Liberation Army “unless Beijing does so.” “Reduction in troops won’t happen unless China initiates the process,” he told in an interview to a news channel.

The previous eighth round of military talks between the two sides took place on November 6 during which both sides reportedly discussed disengagement of troops from specific friction points. China proposed moving its troops back to Finger 8 and pulling back troops by the two sides to their original locations on the southern bank of the Pangong lake. The proposal also included moving back artillery to the depth areas on either side to reduce chances of any incident.

The ninth round of talks will take place in Moldo opposite the Chushul sector, The Indian Express reported.

Also read: 9th round of India-China talks delayed due to new PLA commander

Troops from both sides are within the striking distance ever since violent clashes in June last year when 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of Chinese troops died in a disputed area in the Galwan sector. A series of diplomatic and military talks have not yet yielded any breakthrough.

New Delhi has asserted that the onus is on China to carry forward disengagement and de-escalation at friction points in the difficult mountainous region.

“The Indian Army is ready to stand its ground in eastern Ladakh for as long as it takes,” Indian Army Chief MM Naravane said on the Army Day on Jan 15.

In late August last year, Indian troops surprised the Chinese by occupying dominating heights on the south bank of Pangong, lake and in the larger Chushul sub-sector.

Indian troops have positioned themselves on Gurung Hill, Magar Hill, Mukhpari, Rechin La and Rezang La. They now have direct view of China’s Moldo Garrison, and the strategic Spanggur Gap, which can be used to launch offensive actions as the Chinese did in 1962.

Indian troops have also readjusted their positions on the north bank of the lake, occupying areas to dominate Chinese positions on the ridgeline connecting Finger 3 and Finger 4.

Asked about the dialogue process with China, Rajnath Singh said: “There is no deadline when it comes to matter like the ongoing standoff. You can’t fix a date… We are confident of finding a solution through talks,” he said.

Also read: Violent Ladakh clashes have left India-China relations profoundly disturbed: Jaishankar

On China constructing a village in Arunachal Pradesh, Singh said it was along the border and that such infrastructure has been developed for several years.

“Now, India has also started constructing infrastructure near the LAC at a fast pace considering the requirements of the locals as well as our forces. We are developing our infrastructure at a very fast rate,” he said.