New Delhi: Top Indian and Chinese military commanders will meet on Monday at Moldo to discuss the border dispute, especially in the Pangong Lake area, in eastern Ladakh, sources said. This would be the sixth meeting between two military commanders in the last four months.
This time, a senior Ministry of External Affairs official — Joint Secretary, East Asia, Navin Srivastava — will be joining the Indian delegation.
The delegation, headed by 14 Corps commander Lt Gen Harinder Singh, would also include two Major Generals – Major Gen Abhijit Bapat, and Major Gen Padam Shekhawat – apart from Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) Inspector General Deepam Seth and four brigadiers.
In August, during the fifth round of Corps Commander level discussions – between Lt Gen Singh and South Xinjiang Military District chief, Major Gen Liu Lin, both the representatives deliberated upon the prevailing situation in Pangong Lake, the biggest flashpoint in the standoff.
“The meeting of these two military leaders will start at 9 a.m.,” said a source, adding that the two commanders met for the first time on June 6 when China had agreed to withdraw their forces from all the places which India had raised objections to.
But then a barbaric attack at patrolling point 14 in Galwan Valley on June 15 was carried out by Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in which 20 Indian soldiers and unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed. The clash occurred at the south bank of Galwan river, which flows in an east-west direction before its confluence with Shyok river.
There were the first fatalities faced by the Indian Army in a clash with the PLA since 1975 when an Indian patrol was ambushed by Chinese troops in Arunachal Pradesh.
Now the delegates are meeting to discuss the de-escalation at Pangong Lake where both sides’ troops are at rifle range at four locations – three on the southern bank and one on the northern. “At these places, troops are just a few hundred metres away,” the source added.
On the north bank, the troops are in an eyeball-to-eyeball situation between Finger 3 and Finger 4 — the military term for mountain spurs jutting into the lake — where warning shots were fired in the air by both the armies. On the south bank, the two sides’ troops are a few metres away at Spanggur Gap, Mukhpari, and Rezang La.
China first made provocative military moves and thereafter, India too deployed troops at these locations. At these two places, both the countries’ troops have fired warning shots to stop intimidate each other.
PLA troops made movements to occupy the area between Finger 3 and 4 earlier this month which led to firing of around 200 shots in the air.
The north bank of the lake is divided into 8 fingers that are contested by both sides.
India claims the Line of Actual Control is at Finger 8 and had been holding on to area till Finger 4 but in a clear alteration of status quo, the Chinese have been camping at Finger 4 and have set up fortifications between Finger 5 and 8.
India and China are engaged in a four-month-long standoff at the LAC in eastern Ladakh. Despite several levels of dialogue, there has not been any breakthrough and the deadlock continues.