Indian and Chinese armies will hold a Lt. General-level dialogue on Saturday (June 6) in their first major attempt to resolve the month-long bitter border standoff in eastern Ladakh even as both militaries maintained their aggressive posturing in the sensitive areas in the high-altitude region.
The Indian delegation will be led by Lt General Harinder Singh, the general officer commanding of Leh-based 14 Corps, while the Chinese side will be headed by the Tibet Military District Commander at the talks in the Border Personnel Meeting Point at Maldo, official sources said.
The two sides have already held at least 12 rounds of talks between local commanders and three rounds of talks between major general-rank officials but no positive outcome came out from the discussions, they said.
In Saturday’s meeting, the Indian side is expected to press for restoration of the status quo ante in at least Pangong Tso and Galwan Valley to gradually deescalate the tension removal of temporary camps erected by China after a violent face off between the two sides on May 5.
The Indian delegation will also insist on implementation of the strategic guidelines issued by the two militaries in line with decisions taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in their first informal summit in April 2018 in Wuhan.
It is learnt that two sides are also engaged in diplomatic talks to find a solution to the face-off which is turning out to be the most serious military standoff between the two armies after the Doklam episode of 2017. Modi and Xi held their informal summit in Wuhan months after the Doklam standoff.
After the standoff began in early last month, Indian military leadership decided that Indian troops will adopt a firm approach in dealing with the aggressive posturing by the Chinese troops in all disputed areas of Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie.
The Chinese army is learnt to have deployed around 2,500 troops in Pangong Tso and Galwan Valley besides gradually enhancing temporary infrastructure and weaponry.
Official sources said satellite images have captured significant ramping up of defence infrastructure by China on its side of the de-facto border including construction activities at a military airbase around 180 km from the Pangong Tso area.
China has also enhanced its presence in certain areas along the Line of Actual Control in Northern Sikkim and Uttarakhand following which India has also been its presence by sending additional troops, they said.
The trigger for the face-off was China’s stiff opposition to India laying a key road in the Finger area around the Pangong Tso Lake besides construction of another road connecting the Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie road in Galwan Valley.
The road in the Finger area in Pangong Tso is considered crucial for India to carry out patrol. India has already decided not to stall any border infrastructure projects in eastern Ladakh in view of Chinese protests.
Government sources said military reinforcements including troops, vehicles and artillery guns were sent to eastern Ladakh by the Indian Army to shore up its presence in the areas where Chinese soldiers were resorting to aggressive posturing.
The situation in eastern Ladakh deteriorated after around 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers were engaged in a violent face-off on the evening of May 5 which spilled over to the next day before the two sides agreed to “disengage”.
However, the standoff continued.
The incident in Pangong Tso was followed by a similar incident in north Sikkim on May 9.
The troops of India and China were engaged in a 73-day stand-off in Doklam tri-junction in 2017 which even triggered fears of a war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
Meanwhile, China said that it is committed to properly resolve the relevant issue with India ahead of the key talks between senior Indian and Chinese military officials on Saturday to end the border standoff.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a media briefing here that “at the moment the situation in the boundary region between China and India is overall stable and controllable”.
“We have full-fledged border-related mechanisms and we maintain close communications though military and diplomatic channels, he said when asked about reports that Indian and Chinese military officials are due to hold talks on Saturday. We are committed to properly resolve the relevant issue,” Geng said.
The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488-km-long LAC. China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet while India contests it.
Both sides have been asserting that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, it is necessary to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas.
(With inputs from agencies)