The Indian side focused on complete disengagement and bringing down the tensions during the 9th round of Corps Commander level military dialogues between India and China.
The 9th round of Corps Commander level military dialogues between India and China ended with expected outcomes: the negotiations will continue in future, and the two sides are working on details to enable the retreat of frontline soldiers from the lingering standoff at the Ladakh borders. The talks lasted for almost 16 plus hours and there was no breakthrough in carrying out disengagement.
“Border negotiations are never easy. There are only a few instances of border disputes being resolved amicably. In hyper-nationalistic ecosystems that prevail in India and China, the ruling parties fear the loss of face if they concede any ground to the other side,” opines Prof Rajan Kumar, School of International Studies, JNU.
The Indian side was led by 14 Corps Commander Lt Gen PGK Menon and was joined by Naveen Srivastava, joint secretary (East Asia), Ministry of External Affairs. And the South Xinjiang military district chief Major General Liu Lin led the Chinese side. The Indian side focused on complete disengagement and bringing down the tensions.
Sharing his views with Financial Express Online, Prof Rajan says, “Any concession will be interpreted as surrendering the territory and sovereignty by the opposition parties in India. This makes border negotiations extremely difficult. The government has to appear tough and ready to take punitive action against the hostile neighbour. The government cannot be seen to be conceding and compromising with China.”
“The joint statement issued after the conclusion of the 9th round of military dialogue sounds positive in two respects: the two sides appear to realise the futility of keeping 50,000 soldiers on war alert mode in a sub-zero temperature; and second, the possibility of unintended clashes cannot be ruled out. Therefore, they acknowledge the need to de-mobilise the frontline armed soldiers to avoid any unwanted skirmishes,” he observes.
However, one does not find any mention of restoration of the status quo ante- the key demand of India.
View of Indian Army Veteran
According to Lt Col Manoj K Channan (retd) “The official statement issued at the end of talks is indicative of the fact that the way forward is through dialogue only.”
“It’s been given to understand that the impasse is at the Chinese bottom line for the Indian Army to withdraw to pre-August 2020 deployment, whereas the Indian stand is that the Chinese withdraw to March 2020 positions. A subtle point that needs to be understood is that while we are occupying heights on our side of the Line of Actual Control and the Chinese need to withdraw from our perceived Line of Actual Control positions.”
The Military leaders have agreed to follow the consensus of the respective political leadership and will continue to engage in resolution of the dispute at hand.
While the diplomatic niceties have been spelt out the recent small incident at Naku La by the Chinese in North Sikkim, is an indicator of the Chinese intent to surprise the Indian Army by occupying positions that dominate our defences both by fire and observation. The CCP/PLA cannot be trusted and they strongly need a face-saving action, to appear to be having moral ascendancy in the Indian Army. This, however, is unlikely to happen as the Indian Army as always has maintained its vigil irrespective of the weather or the oxygen diminished heights, till then, the powder needs to be kept dry and any surprise action be countered by resolute action on ground which has been proved time and again,” the army veteran concludes.
What is the position along the LAC?
As has been reported earlier, 50,000 soldiers from India and a similar number from China continued to be deployed in eastern Ladakh in forward areas. And the temperatures right now have dropped to almost minus 30 degree Celsius.
In some areas the troops are literally in an eyeball to eyeball situation, and the two sides have deployed heavy tanks at a 16,000 feet height.