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14th Round Of India-China Military Talks Fails On Outcome But Scores On Cordiality

Both sides agree to continue dialogue to resolve 20-month military face-off in Eastern Ladakh

Photo Credit : Indian Army

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(Representative Photo) The 14th round of Corps Commander-level talks remained work-in-progress

The 14th round of India-China Corps Commander-level talks on January 12 failed to provide an outcome on the resolution of the military stand-off along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh but ended on a note of cordiality. On the table was a troop pullback from a friction point at Patrolling Point 15 in the Hot Springs area of Demchok.

The meeting led by 14 Corps Commander Lt General Anindya Sengupta and his Chinese counterpart Major General Yang Lin yielded a joint press release a day after the talks were held on the Chinese side of the Chushul-Moldo border meeting point. The tone and tenor of the joint statement indicated that both sides were agreeable to an amicable resolution through continued dialogue.  

“The two sides also agreed to consolidate on the previous outcomes and take effective efforts to maintain the security and stability on the ground in the Western Sector including during winter. The two sides agreed to stay in close contact and maintain dialogue via military and diplomatic channels and work out a mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues at the earliest. In this context it was also agreed that the next round of the Commanders’ talks should be held at the earliest,” the joint press release stated. 

It was “agreed that both sides should follow the guidance provided by the State Leaders and work for the resolution of the remaining issues at the earliest. It was noted that this would help in restoration of peace and tranquility along the LAC in the Western Sector and enable progress in bilateral relations,” the press release added.

Some earlier rounds of talks had failed to yield even a joint statement. Representatives from the Defence and Foreign Affairs establishments of the two sides were present at the meeting. 

At a press conference in New Delhi on January 12 ahead of Army Day, the Indian Army Chief, General MM Naravane, while favouring dialogue with China, had said it is unreasonable to expect every round of talks to have an outcome. 

Illustrating his position that resolution of the stand-off through dialogue was incremental and work-in-progress, General Naravane point out that the face-off at Patrolling Point 14 (PP 14) was resolved in the 4th and 5th rounds of talks, the North and South Bank of Pangong Tso and the Kailash Range were resolved in the 9th and 10th round, and PP 17 in the 12th round. 

The Indian effort at the military talks is to seek “correction at PP 15 (Hot Springs) and then go on to other issues”. 

While presenting a reality check with his “We have to be prepared to stay there for as long as it takes” remark, the Army Chief listed out a step-by-step approach to resolve the face-off: First, disengagement has to take place along the remaining friction points, then consider de-escalation in moving back to areas in depth, and once confidence is built up, then de-induct. 

Responding to a question on whether the ongoing confrontation would result in permanent heavy deployment of troops in Eastern Ladakh on the lines of the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan, General Naravane said it remains to be seen whether the Chinese permanently garrison on the LAC or be amenable to de-induction. 

General Naravane, while maintaining that India wants to resolve the 20-month-old military face-off peacefully through dialogue, he vowed that India would emerge victorious if war is thrust on it. He also gave an assurance that India was evenly matched both in troop and infrastructure build-up.