NEW DELHI: The fourth round of talks between senior military commanders of India and China will take place on Tuesday and is expected to cover a second and more complex phase of de-escalation and disengagement by troops of both the countries in eastern Ladakh, a person familiar with the developments said on Monday.
The talks between Lt General Harinder Singh and Major General Liu Lin of the Chinese Liberation Army (PLA) come after a round of discussions between senior diplomats of the two countries via a video link on Friday, with both reiterating their intention to “ensure complete disengagement” along the LAC.
Singh and Liu also held talks on 6 June, 22 June, and 30 June.
Tensions between New Delhi and Beijing have been running high since 5 May. On 15 June, violent clashes between the troops of the two countries in Galwan Valley at PP 14 claimed lives of 20 Indian soldiers and unspecified number of casualties on the Chinese side.
Relations, regarded as uneasy, were kept stable by both, by adhering to a slew of pacts aimed at keeping frictions in check.
Last week, troops of the two countries pulled back from three friction points—PP (patrolling point) 14,15 and 17A, with soldiers creating a buffer zone of 3-4 km depth. This was done to ensure that troops that are separated at some points along their LAC in Ladakh by 600 m or less do not engage with each other.
Disengagement at PP 14, 15 and 17A has been regarded as relatively easy, according to analysts. They say the challenging part is the withdrawal of Chinese troops from the banks of Pangong Tso. India has been in control of one-third of the lake and the Chinese of the remaining two-thirds for years. Indian troops have been in control of some key mountain folds jutting into the lake known as “Fingers”, with the Chinese in control of others.
India’s demand in the talks so far with the Chinese has been that they withdraw to positions they held in April—that the Chinese move back to Finger 8 from their current position, which is at Finger 4. India has been in control of areas up to Finger 4 and used to patrol up to Finger 8. The two are some 8 km apart.
The Chinese have intruded as far as Finger 4 and occupied heights though they have cleared soldiers and vehicles besides other structures that they had built around the base of Finger 4 and moved them back to Finger 5.
But Chinese troops continuing to occupy the heights of Finger 4 means obstructing Indian patrols up to that point and beyond to Finger 8.
Another focus of the military talks will be to get the Chinese troops to retreat in the Depsang area towards the west of the lake. Indian troops in this part of the border are on a high alert.
A previous Chinese intrusion in 2013 had blocked India’s patrol access considerably.