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NEW DELHI: India and China will hold the 14th round of top-level military talks on January 12, in yet another bid to defuse the 20-month-long confrontation in eastern Ladakh that has seen them keep around 50,000 troops each forward deployed for the second consecutive winter.
There was a cautious “wait-and-watch” assessment in the Indian defence establishment on Friday, given that the 13th round of corps commander talks on October 10had ended in a bitter stalemate with China even refusing to complete the stalled troop disengagement at Patrolling Point-15 (PP-15) in the Hot Springs-Gogra-Kongka La area.
Moreover, the talks next week will be led by new officers, 14 Corps commander Lt-General Anindya Sengupta and South Xinjiang Military District chief Major General Yang Lin. “The meeting, which comes after some delay due to China dragging its feet in finalizing an exact date, could just be an ice-breaker between the two new generals. They may agree to meet for the 15th round soon,” a source said.
“Conversely, there could be forward movement on disengagement at PP-15 because the groundwork for it was already done during the 12th round (July 31). There are only about 60 soldiers each from the two sides forward deployed at PP-15,” he added.
Sources said a lot will depend on the kind of message Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Central Military Commission (CMC) want to send ahead of the Winter Olympics to be held in Beijing from February 4 to 20, followed by the Paralympics in March.
India, incidentally, had joined Russia in expressing support for China in hosting the Winter Olympics in their trilateral foreign ministers’ virtual meet in November, which had come amidst a toughening of stance by western countries.
Sources, however, said any resolution of the much more tougher stand-offs at the Charding Ninglung Nallah (CNN) track junction at Demchok and the strategically-located Depsang Plains, followed by overall de-escalation along the frontier in eastern Ladakh, is not on the horizon as of now.
The Depsang Bulge, in particular, remains a major hotspot. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been actively blocking Indian soldiers, around 18-km inside what India considers its own territory, from even going to their traditional PPs-10, 11, 12, 12A and 13 in Depsang since April-May 2020.
After the multiple PLA incursions into eastern Ladakh in May 2020, troop disengagement subsequently took place in the Pangong Tso-Kailash Range region in February last year and then at PP-17A near the crucial Gogra post in early-August.
But the overall deadlock still persists, with China continuing to consolidate its military positions and border infrastructure along the 3,488-km long Line of Actual Control, upgrade its air bases facing India and also establish “dual-use” villages in disputed territories.
The latest instance of this is the PLA’s ongoing construction of a bridge across the Pangong Tso in the Khurnak Fort area for better connectivity of its troops between the north and south banks of the brackish lake, as was reported by TOI earlier this week.
India on Thursday had slammed China for building the bridge in the area illegally occupied by it since 1958, renaming 15 locations in Arunachal Pradesh and the “inappropriate” substance, tone and tenor of the letter written by one of its diplomats to Indian MPs over their presence at a Tibet-related event in Delhi.





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