New Delhi: The next round of critical military commander talks set to take place on Monday will focus on comprehensive disengagement along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) but Chinese deployments in the Finger area along Pangong lake remain a hardpoint in reducing border tensions. Army Commanders from India and China are expected to meet on Monday at the Moldo border meeting point at 9 am, hoping to launch a disengagement process at the friction points as agreed upon by the two foreign ministers in Moscow on September 10.

A senior diplomat from MEA is expected to be present at the meeting. This will be followed by the next meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation & Coordination (WMCC) on India-China Border Affairs with focus on diplomacy and negotiations to tide over the crisis, ET has learnt. Since June, the WMCC, led by the two foreign ministries, have met several times hoping to resolve the crisis.

Officials said that the focus in upcoming talks will be on disengaging at the flashpoints as well as moving back of troops that have been moved forward after the PLA moved in early May under the guise of a training exercise. Disengagement only at particular sites, like the southern bank of the Pangong lake will not be considered. Last Friday’s China Study Group (CSG) meet touched upon the key talking points to be raised by the Indian side at the next Corps commander-level talks. It is also learnt that the Indian military commander who has been leading all top level discussions with his Chinese counterpart, Lt Gen Harinder Singh, is being posted out as the 14 Corps Commander after completing his twelve month tenure in October.

The officer is likely to be replaced by Lt Gen PGK Menon, who has commanded a mountain division on the China border in the east. The CSG had carried out a comprehensive review of the overall situation in eastern Ladakh, including India’s operational preparedness in view of the continued belligerence by the Chinese army. Army Chief Gen MM Naravane had briefed the meeting about the fresh face-offs between Indian and Chinese troops at both the north and south banks of the Pangong lake and elaborated on the steps taken to effectively deal with such attempts. The meeting of the China Study Group reviewed all aspects of the situation, a source said.

The sticking point at the talks is still expected to be the Finger area, where China has moved upwards of 5,000 troops in a stretch of land between Fingers 8 and 4 along the Pangong lake. India considers Finger 8 to be within its perception of the LAC and is not giving in to Chinese assertions over the land. While in past talks China has offered to reduce troops in the disputed area, the Indian position has been that all PLA troops need to withdraw to positions they held before the aggressive military manoeuvres in April.

This would mean moving back Chinese troops to Finger 8, with a bulk of them moving even more eastward to the Khurnak fort and beyond. China however wants to retain a smaller number of troops at Fingers 4 and 6, a contention that is not acceptable to India. China has also protested Indian forward positions set up along strategic heights and passes south of the Pangong lake in an area termed as the Chushul sub sector.