Contrary to the expectation, there was no breakthrough between India and China at the 13th round of the Corps Commander level talks held at Moldo on Sunday. Top sources say the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) contingent had come with a “pre-determined mindset” as they were “aggressive and the outcome of the talks was already known to them”.
Both India and China had said in their statement that there was no resolution on disengagement in the remaining friction points. The three friction points are Hot Springs, Demchok and the most contentious Depsang Plains. Both sides had blamed each other for the impasse.
Top level sources say it was probably last month’s Tawang incident, where 200 PLA soldiers were confronted by the Indian troops leading to a face-off, that had affected the Chinese side. “This time they wanted to sound firm and determined.”
The Indian Army in a statement had said the situation along the LAC had been caused by the “unilateral attempts of Chinese side to alter the status quo”. While China said India “should cherish the hard-won situation in China-India border areas.” The Indian Army, however, said the talks will continue between the two.
The note by the Indian Army also said, “During the meeting, the Indian side therefore made constructive suggestions for resolving the remaining areas but the Chinese side was not agreeable and also could not provide any forward-looking proposals. The meeting thus did not result in resolution of the remaining areas.”
According to sources, not just Hot Springs, but all friction points, including Demchok and Depsang were on the table as well.
The PLA Western Command in its press release has called India’s demands “unrealistic and unreasonable”, which added to the difficulty in negotiations.
The standoff in eastern Ladakh has been going on for 17 months. Around 50,000 to 60,000 Indian troops are readying to spend another bitter winter in heights where temperature is expected to plummet to minus 30 degrees.
The Chinese infrastructure build up across Eastern Ladakh has been massive. Permanent structures to house troops, helipads along the LAC, upgrading airfields facing India, broadening of roads, building of bridges, augmenting boat strength in Pangong Tso.
Looking at the infrastructure build-up, Army Chief General MM Naravane said, “If the Chinese are there to stay, we are there to stay too.”