NEW DELHI: Senior military commanders of India and China are holding their third meeting in a month on Tuesday, aimed at salvaging a de-escalation and disengagement plan that they had arrived at earlier but made minimal progress in implementing.
The third meeting between Lieutenant General Harinder Singh, commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps and Major General Liu Lin, commander of the South Xinjiang military region, is to take place at Chushul in Ladakh on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control. The previous two meetings took place at Moldo on the Chinese side of the LAC.
The two sides last met on 22 June, a week after the brutal Galwan Valley clash in which 19 Indian army soldiers and a colonel were killed. In the 22 June meeting, the two sides had arrived at a consensus on disengaging from friction points along the disputed border. The “mutual consensus to disengage” from all “friction areas” however did not result in any reduction of tensions on the ground. It has also not resulted in any form of disengagement or thinning of the military buildup by India and China.
In what was seen as a rare meeting, the two commanders had met on 6 June to discuss the border tensions that had built up over the previous month and discussed limited military disengagement that began in some friction areas but was interrupted by the clash in Galwan Valley.
On Tuesday, the Indian side is expected to reiterate its demand for the pullback of Chinese troops from the friction points and seek restoration of status quo ante or the situation that prevailed in April in key areas, including Pangong Tso lake, Galwan Valley and the strategic Depsang plains, that lie south of Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) near the Karakoram pass.
Analysts have kept their expectations from Tuesday’s meet low.
“I expect it to be a very long haul,” said CU Bhaskar, director of New Delhi-based think tank Society for Policy Studies, given that the positions of the two countries seem very far apart on the issues involved.
Both India and China have significantly reinforced their deployments along the border with fighter jets, helicopters, tanks, heavy artillery and missiles, according to people familiar with the developments. Satellite pictures — not verified by the Indian government — show Chinese troops not only holding ground in Galwan Valley area but also shoring up their military positions with fortifications. The images also show that China has not halted but instead ramped up its military activity in Galwan Valley, Depsang and at Pangong Tso after the senior commanders met on 22 June.
But analysts have also pointed out that the two sides are talking, which they described as positive.
Ahead of the talks on Tuesday, the Indian government banned 59 Chinese apps, including the popular Tiktok app, in a sign of upping the ante against China.