India and China today conducted another round of military commander-level talks — the 19th round since June 2020. This round of talks was held at the Chushul-Moldo border meeting point on the Indian side. The meeting ended late in the evening, sources said, adding a formal statement detailing the outcome was expected in a day.
The two sides look to end the ongoing impasse along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh where the two militaries have been locked in a stand-off since April 2020.
Talks were conducted after almost four months. The last round conducted on April 23 ended in stalemate. Since then, there have been a series of high-level contacts between the two sides.
Differences remain unresolved over pulling back of troops from the Depsang plains areas and Charding Nullah near Demchok.
Talks are deadlocked over the pending resolution of disputes at Depsang, a 972-sq km plateau where the two sides have issues over troops positions especially at ‘bottleneck’ on the eastern edge of Depsang.
India has been objecting to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) deliberately blocking Indian patrols on this specific patrolling route in Depsang. Prior to April 2020, Indian troops used the patrolling route, however, the PLA has been craftily using a clause in a 30-year-old border agreement to block Indian patrols.
India has already suggested to China that a graded three-step process is needed to ease the standoff. The first is disengagement of troops within close proximity to each other in grey zones along the LAC and getting back to positions as on April 2020.
The next two steps — de-escalation and de-induction — would entail pulling back troops and equipment to the pre-April 2020 levels. Till that is agreed upon and complied to, it cannot be assumed to be business as usual and Indian troops intend to remain at the LAC.