NEW DELHI :
Talks between military commanders on a complex phase of de-escalation and disengagement by Indian and Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh is expected to take place this week, a person familiar with the development said on Sunday.
The military talks come after senior diplomats of the two countries met via video link on Friday, and vowed to “ensure complete disengagement” along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
This will be the fourth round of talks at the level of senior commanders since 5 May when tensions between the two sides came to light after a physical fight between troops of India and China along the banks of the Pangong Tso in Ladakh.
Talks have taken place on 6, 22 and 30 June.
Tensions along the border and a violent clash on 15 June have shredded India-China ties, regarded as uneasy but kept stable by both, 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 each other. On 15 June, a clash in Galwan Valley at PP 14 left 20 soldiers dead on the Indian side and an unspecified number of casualties on the Chinese side.
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 8km 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.