NEW DELHI :
Indian and Chinese military commanders ended 15 hours of talks on easing tensions in eastern Ladakh in the early hours of Wednesday but there was little clarity on the outcome—while China claimed “progress” on disengagement, India did not comment.
To be sure there was no statement expected from New Delhi on Wednesday. Ministers, senior civil servants and top military brass went into “internal deliberations” after the protracted talks between Lt Gen Harinder Singh and Maj Gen Liu Lin ended in Chushul, Ladakh, a person familiar with the matter said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters in Beijing that “building on the consensus of the previous three rounds and the implementation of relevant work (the two sides have) reached progress on promoting further disengagement between troops at the western sector of the boundary and de-escalating tensions.”
“We hope that India can work with China to implement our consensus with real actions and jointly safeguard peace and tranquillity in the border areas,” Hua said after the fourth round of talks between the two commanders since 6 June, according to PTI.
Two people familiar with the matter from the Indian side said the talks between Singh and Liu lasted 15 hours. One of them said the two commanders finished at around 2:30 am on Wednesday, which would indicate a tough session of negotiations and bargaining.
The lengthy discussions and the need for internal deliberations have led to speculation that the talks had either hit a roadblock or that the Chinese side had made a proposal that required consultations among the top military establishment in New Delhi, perhaps also with the political leaders.
On the table from the Indian side was a demand to restore the status quo ante—or a complete withdrawal of Chinese troops to positions they occupied in April. The Chinese have made inroads into Indian territory in the Pangong Tso lake area and in Depsang plains in eastern Ladakh.
At Pangong Tso, the Chinese still occupy the heights at Finger 4 despite having moved away toward Finger 5. The “Fingers” refer to mountain folds jutting into the lake.
In the Depsang plains, the Chinese are seen as having intruded 18-20 kilometres into Indian territory. Depsang is crucial to India given its proximity to the strategic Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie road.