The meetings will continue further, though the next date has not been firmed up yet. While the effort to resolve the crisis is seen, there seems to be hardly any consensus on disengagement from all friction areas.
India has been insisting on a complete dis-engagement of the Chinese troops and restoring the Status Quo Ante in all areas of eastern Ladakh prior to April 2020. (File photo: PTI)
India China Talks in Ladakh: The 6th Corps Commander meeting concluded late in the evening at 11 pm after nearly 14 hours. The meetings will continue further, though the next date has not been firmed up yet. While the effort to resolve the crisis is seen, there seems to be hardly any consensus on disengagement from all friction areas.
Yesterday’s meeting was attended by a larger delegation including a Joint Secretary of the MEA. From India Lt Gen Harinder Singh, the commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps of the Indian Army and for the first time MEA Joint Secretary Naveen Srivastava also joined in the talks. He has been engaged in the diplomatic level talks with the Chinese side on the border issue under the framework of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs. Also part of the Indian delegation was Lt Gen PGK Menon, who according to sources is expected to be the commander of the 14 Corps from October.
“The participants in the talks have correctly taken the cue from the recent declarations after the Foreign Ministers Meeting at Moscow. It is imperative that we proceed ahead within that framework. The presence of the representative of the Ministry of External Affairs also reinforces this stand,” opine experts.
What was the agenda of the talks?
India has been pushing for a complete and early disengagement of Chinese troops from the friction points in eastern Ladakh. The talks focused on the five-point bilateral agreement to ease the long standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
And the Indian side insisted on the time-bound implementation of the agreement which was finalised on Sept 10 at the end of talks between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow.
Also, the two sides talked about a specific timeline for implementation of the five-point agreement.
The talks started at 9 am on Sept 21, 2020, in Moldo on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The talks went on for long 14 hours which were inconclusive.
India has been insisting on a complete dis-engagement of the Chinese troops and restoring the Status Quo Ante in all areas of eastern Ladakh prior to April 2020.
As reported earlier, the fifth round of Corps commander talks last month lasted for almost 11 hours. The fourth round in July had gone on for 15 hours.
What do former military officers say about the Indo-China Commanders’ Talks?
Maj Gen Jagatbir Singh (Retd) says, “The first step to defuse a standoff; the type that is being witnessed between India and China in Eastern Ladakh is dialogue. This dialogue has to be focused at disengagement and thereafter at de-escalation. In military terms the connotations of both are different. The first involves separating the troops which are in close proximity to each other and at places literally facing each other within the range of direct firing weapons to step back to a distance. The latter is more complex as it entails vacating those areas occupied and moving troops behind the accepted line of the LAC and simultaneously or later reducing the buildup of troops and equipment which has taken place over this period of time in this Sector .”
In his personal opinion, “To resolve all these issues with the background of a trust deficit is not easy. Timelines for withdrawal need to be laid down and adhered to, the locations from where the troops required disengaging first need to be identified, and at the same time while this process is taking place it needs to be ensured that no further escalation takes place.”
“Military level talks have several advantages; the principal being that they have intimate knowledge of the terrain and the existing ground realities as far as the deployments and options are concerned. The disadvantage is that they are governed by certain terms of reference, within whose parameters they have to be restricted. However, the presence of a representative of the Ministry of External Affairs has widened the scope, which is a step in the right direction,” Maj Gen Singh says.
“The major change that has taken place recently is the occupation of certain strategic heights on the South bank of the Pangong Tso by our troops. These are dominating features that overlook the Chinese intrusions at Finger 4 & 8 and also dominate the Spanggur Gap and Chushul Bowl. While this is viewed as a preemptive and proactive step by our adversary, it is well within the LAC as perceived by us. In military terms, it can be classified as a Quid Pro Quo (QPQ) action, but it has changed the status quo in the region to our advantage,” he explains.
According to the former commander of the prestigious 1 Armoured Division and 18 Cavalry, “The valour displayed by our troops at Galwan and the recent actions taken by us have demonstrated not only our capability but also the resolve of our Armed Forces in maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation. We can now speak form a position of strength and have greater leverage, while insisting on restoring status quo ante as of April 2020.”
In conclusion, the former general says, “While some may claim the talks are inconclusive, it is imperative that we identify the end result and take steps to achieve that irrespective of the time it takes. Negotiations will take time as we are embroiled in a dialogue that is part of a historical process. While the current outcome to resolve all issues in their entirety may seem unachievable but for both countries any other option is undesirable.”
Says Lt Col Manoj K Channan (Retd), “In the continued dialogue between both the countries, the intent is clearly to find a middle path to settle the Line of Actual Control dispute. While the talks are on, the situation on ground is to try and gain a position of advantage to make the defences of the Chinese untenable.”
According to the Indian Army Veteran, “As per media reports China has mobilised four out of the five theatre commands and has reportedly carried out live firing exercises conveying its intent to escalate militarily to impose its will.
India has not resorted to any such demonstrations; however, the Tri Services remain alert to counter any Chinese aggression at the LAC. It is assessed that a status quo will be maintained on the current deployment.”
“It’s now more of a battle of Logistics and the tenacity of the troops deployed on the ground to survive the harsh Ladakh winter,” Lt Col Channan concludes.
Presence of Lt Gen PGK Menon at the talks
He is the successor to Lt Gen Harinder Singh and an officer who is highly experienced and has held key and crucial operational posts in this Sector previously. His presence at the talks is significant as it indicates that he not only needs to get involved in the policymaking at the earliest but at the same time needs to build a rapport with his counterparts to resolve and restore the issues. Even though he has thorough and intimate knowledge of this area, he will be briefed in detail regarding the present situation and changes that have taken place. This will ensure that there will be continuity in our policies.