New Delhi: The first-ever military-diplomatic talks between India and China Monday ended in a “stalemate” with both sides sticking to their stances.

According to sources in the defence and security establishment, while the Indian delegation refused to comply with the Chinese army’s demand to pull out from the southern banks of the Pangong Tso, the Chinese declined India’s emphasis on disengagement at all friction points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh.

During the 14-hour talks Monday, sources said, China refused to budge from its demand that Indian troops pull back from areas that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) considers their own.

“Both sides presented their demands. China wanted us to withdraw from the southern banks. Our demand has been the same from day one — disengagement has to happen on all friction areas simultaneously,” a source said.

China has been peeved by India’s move on the intervening night of 29-30 August, when specialised units along with regular soldiers outflanked the Chinese and occupied crucial heights along the southern bank of the Pangong Tso.

The continued stalemate indicates that tensions between the two Asian giants, which began in April, are likely to continue through the winter. There are also fears that current positions could be the new status quo for quite some time.

Forward deployment through the region’s freezing winter will be a first for India and China, which have posted a large numbers of troops near the LAC in Ladakh backed by artillery, tanks and other equipment.

However, sources added, both sides have agreed to continue with the talks at a later stage.

Diplomatic sources said, like the dialogue Monday, all future meetings between India and China on the matter will include officials from the military as well as the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). This, they said, is to ensure that the Chinese do not get an opportunity to say that Indian diplomats and Army officials speak in different voices. 

Five-Point Agenda

The talks Monday were based on the five-point agenda firmed up between External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart and State Councillor Wang Yi in Moscow on 10 September.

“The five-point agenda decided in Moscow has failed it make its presence on the ground. India Army has been clear that words spoken by China on disengagement will have to turn into action on ground. However, that has not been the case,” a source said.

The military-diplomatic dialogue was held at the Chushul-Moldo meeting point on the Chinese side of the LAC, with India represented by 14 Corps Commander Lt Gen. Harinder Singh, his would-be successor Lt Gen. P.G.K. Menon, along with two officers of major general rank, four brigadiers and other colonel-level officers and translators.

They were joined by Navin Srivastava, joint secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs who looks after China. Indo-Tibetan Border Police Inspector General Deepam Seth was also a part of the delegation.