Top Army officers from India and China will meet for the third time on Tuesday in a bid to de-escalate border tensions and reduce military build-ups, amidst the continuing stalemate triggered by Chinese troop intrusions into Indian territory in Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Hot Springs and Depsang Plains in eastern Ladakh.
Sources said 14 Corps commander Lt-General Harinder Singh and South Xinjiang Military District chief Major General Liu Lin will kick off their meeting at the Chushul-Moldo border personnel meeting (BPM) point around 10.30 am on Tuesday.
The meeting will take place for the first time at Chushul, unlike the first two marathon meetings held at Moldo on June 6 and 22, ever since the major troop confrontations between the two nuclear powers began in early-May.
But the mood is grim because the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has so far failed to adhere to the de-escalation and disengagement plan finalized in the earlier meetings. “India’s aim at the meeting on Tuesday will be to discuss ways to reduce tensions with additional confidence-building measures and finalize disengagement timelines. Indian Army, however, is well prepared for the long haul if PLA continues to remain intransigent,” said a source.
Chinese troops are continuing to block all Indian patrols after fortifying their positions at the “Finger-4 to 8” stretch (mountainous spurs separated over a distance of 8-km) on the north bank of Pangong Tso, “Patrolling Point-14 (PP-14)” in Galwan Valley and the “Bottleneck” area in Depsang, said sources.
Chinese troops at the confrontation sites continue to be backed by a large number of troops as well as tanks and artillery guns from the PLA’s 4th Motorized Infantry Division and 6th Mechanized Infantry Division as well as Western Theatre Command “reserves” deployed along the LAC, especially in the strategically-located Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO)-Depsang sector.
India, of course, has more than matched the build-up by inducting three additional divisions (each has 10,000-12,000 troops), howitzers and armoured vehicles into Ladakh, along with deploying fighters as well as attack and heavy-lift helicopters in forward bases.
Tensions are running very high between the rival troops, separated by distances from just about 100 meters to a couple of kilometers in different sectors, after the bloody skirmish near PP-14 in Galwan Valley on June 15.
The PLA first reneged on dismantling one of its observation posts near PP-14 in the Galwan Valley, as was agreed in the June 6 meeting between the corps commanders, leading to the extended skirmish in which Col Santosh Babu and 19 other Indian soldiers were killed on June 15. China has kept silent about the number of its casualties.
The PLA then used the interim period for additional troop build-ups, and later did not carry out the disengagement decided in the June 22 meeting. “The PLA promises did not translate into action on the ground. It seems hell-bent on creating more friction points,” said the source.
India, on its part, has deployed acclimatized troops and heavy weaponry all along the LAC in eastern Ladakh, stretching north to south from DBO-Depsang, Galwan, Hot Springs, Pangong Tso, Chushul, Demchok and Chumar sectors.