New Delhi: The Indian Army on Friday strongly insisted on early disengagement of troops by China from all the friction points in eastern Ladakh at the eighth round of Corps Commander-level talks between the two sides that primarily focused on a roadmap for restoration of peace and tranquillity in the region, according to people familiar with the developments. Also Read - Situation Along LAC in Eastern Ladakh Remains Tense, Says Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat
The talks began at around 9:30 am in Chushul on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh and ended at 7 pm, they said. Also Read - Eastern Ladakh Row: India Determined to Protect Its Sovereignty, Territorial Integrity, Says Rajnath
“The Indian side insisted on early restoration of status quo ante of April and comprehensive disengagement of troops by China from all the friction points to resolve the row,” said one of the persons cited above. Also Read - Any Attempt to Change Status Quo Along LAC in Ladakh is 'Unacceptable': Jaishankar
When asked about the six-month-long military standoff, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said at a media briefing that both sides continue to maintain close communication at the military and diplomatic levels to achieve complete disengagement along the LAC.
“The two sides are guided by the leaders’ consensus to jointly safeguard peace and tranquillity in the border areas. We will continue to maintain the dialogue with the Chinese side to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution to the current situation along the LAC in eastern Ladakh,” he said.
In the last few days, the top military brass of India held a series of meetings where the overall situation in eastern Ladakh was reviewed and it was decided to press for comprehensive disengagement of the troops at talks with China.
The seventh round of Corps Commander-level talks took place on October 12 during which the Chinese People’s Liberation Army(PLA) pressed for withdrawal of Indian troops from a number of strategic heights around the Southern bank of Pangong lake. However, India maintained that the disengagement process has to start simultaneously at all the friction points.
Nearly 50,000 Indian Army troops are currently deployed in a high state of combat readiness in various mountainous locations in eastern Ladakh in sub-zero conditions as multiple rounds of talks between the two sides have not yielded concrete outcome to resolve the standoff. China has also deployed an equal number of troops, according to officials.
The standoff between the two sides erupted in early May.
Last week, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said ties between India and China have come under “severe stress” and that the agreements inked by both sides on management of the border must be respected “scrupulously” in their “entirety” to restore normalcy in relations.
The Indian delegation at the eighth round of military talks was led by Lt Gen PGK Menon, the newly-appointed Commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps.
Naveen Srivastava, Joint Secretary (East Asia) in the Ministry of External Affairs, was also part of the Indian delegation.
At the seventh round of talks, both sides had agreed to maintain dialogue and communication through military and diplomatic channels to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution for disengagement “as early as possible”.
India has all along been maintaining that the onus is on China to carry forward the process of disengagement and de-escalation at the friction points in the mountainous region.
Following the sixth round of military talks, the two sides announced a slew of decisions including not to send more troops to the frontline, refrain from unilaterally changing the situation on the ground and avoid taking any actions that may further complicate matters.
The sixth round was held with a specific agenda of exploring ways to implement a five-point agreement reached between Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at a meeting in Moscow on September 10 on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) conclave.
The pact included measures like quick disengagement of troops, avoiding action that could escalate tensions, adherence to all agreements and protocols on border management and steps to restore peace along the LAC.