The 10th round of Corps Commander-level talks between India and China that began on Saturday lasted for over 16 hours, concluding at around 2 am on Sunday. Militaries of both countries touched upon disengagement at the three friction points of Gogra Heights, Hot Springs and Depsang plains.
The talks took place two days after the Chinese and Indian militaries completed the withdrawal of troops, weapons and other military hardware from the North and South banks of Pangong lake areas as part of an agreement.
The meeting started at 10am at the Moldo border point on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control, with India insisting on a faster disengagement process in remaining areas like Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang to bring down tension in the region that has witnessed a tense standoff between the two militaries for over nine months.
“The focus of the talks is on carrying forward the disengagement process,” said a source. On February 11, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced in Parliament that India and China reached an agreement on disengagement in the North and South banks of Pangong Lake that mandates both sides to “cease” forward deployment of troops in a “phased, coordinated and verifiable” manner.
Under the agreement, he said China will pull back its troops to east of Finger 8 areas in the northern bank of Pangong lake while the Indian personnel will be based at their permanent base at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3 in the region. Similar action would take place on the south bank of the lake as well, he said. The sources said troops of both sides have retreated to positions that were agreed upon by both the sides.
The disengagement process began on February 10. The Indian delegation at Saturday’s talks was led by Lt Gen PGK Menon, the Commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps. The Chinese side was headed by Maj Gen Liu Lin, the commander of the South Xinjiang military district of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). In his statement in Parliament, the defence minister also said that it was agreed to convene the next meeting of senior commanders of both sides within 48 hours of completion of the disengagement in the Pangong lake areas so as to resolve all other remaining issues.
Days later, the Defence Ministry said other outstanding “problems” including in Depsang, Hot Springs and Gogra will be taken up at the upcoming talks between military commanders of the two countries.
The border standoff between the Indian and Chinese militaries erupted on May 5 following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas and both sides gradually enhanced their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry even as the two sides continued military and diplomatic talks.
Last year, the Chinese military built several bunkers and other structures in the areas between Finger 4 and 8 and had blocked all Indian patrols beyond Finger 4, triggering strong reaction from the Indian Army. In the nine rounds of military talks, India had specifically insisted on withdrawal of Chinese troops from Finger 4 to Finger 8 on the North bank of Pangong Lake. The mountain spurs in the area are referred to as Fingers.
On its part, the Chinese side was insisting on withdrawal of Indian troops from several strategic peaks on the southern bank of the lake. Around five months back, Indian troops occupied a number of strategic heights in the Mukhpari, Rechin La and Magar hill areas around the southern bank after the Chinese PLA attempted to intimidate them in the area.