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Next round of Delhi-Beijing talks likely within a week, after Chinese national holidays end

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The next round of military-diplomatic talks between Delhi and Beijing are likely to take place within a week’s time, after the Chinese national holidays are over, government sources indicated. A formal date, however, is yet to be decided. 

“Discussions have been on over fixing up the date for the next corps commander talks. In all likelihood, it will be held within about a week’s time, after the Chinese (national) holidays are over,” a source said.

Beginning 1 October, China is observing national holidays that are officially three days long but can extend up to a week on the mainland. This is to commemorate the country’s National Day, which marks the formal establishment of the People’s Republic of China on 1 October 1949.

The seventh meeting between senior military commanders for an “early and complete” disengagement at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) was a point of discussion in Wednesday’s Working Mechanism for Consultation & Coordination (WMCC) meet between both sides.

Former DGMO Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (retd) told ThePrint that while much may not come out of the talks, the fact that they are happening is a positive development. 

“Both sides have taken a hardened position. While India seeks status quo ante, China will be looking at consolidating its positions and forward deployment,” he said. “China is concerned about India holding operationally important heights at the south bank of Pangong Tso.”

Bhatia said India will talk to China from a position of relative strength.

The disengagement process, however, is expected to take several months. The Army is in the middle of a huge logistical exercise aimed at a massive winter preparation for over 40,000 additional troops in Ladakh.

There are also discussions in the military and diplomatic circles that China might bring up the issue of the 1959 claim line in the next round of talks, even as New Delhi has maintained it does not accept Beijing’s insistence to define the LAC in accordance with its 1959 claim. 

Earlier this month, in an interview to ThePrint, China expert Yun Sun had said the Chinese are probably aiming to define the Line of Actual Control (LAC) according to their claim line of 1959, which was reiterated by the Chinese foreign ministry.

‘China accused India of breaking border protocols’

A top government source told ThePrint that in the last military-diplomatic meeting between the two sides that lasted 14 hours, the Chinese wanted to discuss the border issues as they existed since September while India wanted to discuss the standoff from April. 

“China had accused India of breaking protocols and moving into their territory and occupying approximately 30 features,” a source told ThePrint.

ThePrint had reported about India holding nearly 30 heights and terrain features, which were earlier unoccupied in the south bank of Pangong Tso.

“The Chinese stance was that they haven’t crossed the LAC, and it is India that has intruded into their territory,” the source added.

India, however, maintained that it was China that began the standoff by moving into areas, particularly the Galwan Valley and Finger 4 of the north bank of the Pangong Tso and also initiated violence. 

As reported by ThePrint, this had led to a stalemate as China wanted to discuss withdrawal of Indian troops from the south bank of Pangong Tso and India emphasised on discussions on all friction points along the LAC.

Both sides, however, agreed on the common points which included preventing any further escalation, stabilising and eventually de-escalating the standoff and implementing various confidence building measures leading to withdrawal of troops and avoid any deterioration of bilateral relations.

Sources reiterated that the ground situation, particularly in the southern and northern banks of Pangong Tso, continues to be volatile with troops of both stationed in proximity to each other.