We're Live Bangla Tuesday, January 18, 2022

INDIA, CHINA AGREE FOR MORE LAC TALKS

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14th round of talks between military commanders did not yield breakthrough.

India and China on Thursday agreed to “stay in close contact and maintain dialogue” to work out a “mutually acceptable resolution” of remaining issues along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), although the latest round of talks between military commanders did not yield an immediate breakthrough.

While there was no agreement as yet to disengage in the three remaining areas of difference — on the agenda this week was Hot Springs, while differences in Demchok and Depsang are more pronounced with the prospects of an early resolution there unlikely — exchanges between the two sides during the 14th round of Corps Commander level talks, held on the Chinese side of the Chushul-Moldo border meeting point, struck a more positive note than the previous round, officials said.

In October, the 13th round failed to yield a joint statement with both sides trading accusations, with India saying China failed to offer any forward-looking suggestions while China described India’s proposals as unrealistic.

A joint statement released on Thursday in New Delhi and Beijing indicated progress had been made but that further work was needed to arrive at a resolution. The statement said 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” and “also agreed that the next round of the Commanders’ talks should be held at the earliest.”

The 14th round saw two new commanders from each side leading the talks, with the Indian delegation led by Lieutenant General Anindya Sengupta, who has taken over as General Office Commanding (GOC) of the Leh-based 14 Corps. The Chinese side was led by Major General Yang Lin, the new head of the PLA’s South Xinjiang Military District (SXMD).

The joint statement said the two sides agreed “to work for the resolution of the remaining issues at the earliest” and that “this would help in restoration of peace and tranquility along the LAC in the Western Sector and enable progress in bilateral relations.”

“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 statement said.

The 13th round in October ended in a stalemate and without a joint statement, and the Chinese side had dragged its feet in confirming dates for the next round. In the October talks, the Chinese side was led by a stand-in, Maj. Gen. Zhao Zhidan, as Maj. Gen. Yang was yet to take charge of the SXMD.

The latest statement acknowledged the need to resolve remaining issues “at the earliest”. Of the remaining disputes in Hot Springs, Demchok and Depsang, the expectation is a solution in the near-term is likely at Hot Springs. Both sides disengaged from Pangong Tso in February 2021 and from Patrolling Point 17 in the Gogra area in August. The Chinese side in earlier rounds were not willing to discuss proposals to disengage in Demchok and Depsang.

On Wednesday, Army Chief Gen. Manoj Naravane said there had been partial disengagement but added that a threat level remained and the Chinese had put in place a lot of infrastructure in forward areas. He said “it remains to be seen whether they will permanently station themselves there or whether they will be amenable to some kind of de-induction in the times to come”.

Around 50,000 troops from each side remain deployed in forward areas. De-induction and a return to peace time positions remain a far-off prospect, with both sides still yet to disengage in all friction areas and also yet to discuss de-escalation, or a return to depth areas, which would be the next step.

Asked by a foreign media outlet for a response to the Army Chief’s comments, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said “China and India are in dialogue and communication through diplomatic and military channels to ease the situation at the border”. “We hope that certain individual on the Indian side would refrain from making unconstructive remarks,” he said.