New Delhi: The seventh round of corps commanders’ talks between India and China Monday at Chushul were “positive, constructive and had enhanced understanding of each other’s positions”, the two countries said in a joint press statement released by the Ministry of Defence Tuesday. China also released a similar statement.

“The two sides had a sincere, in-depth and constructive exchange of views on disengagement along the Line of Actual Control in the Western Sector of India-China border areas,” it stated.

The statement mentioned that both sides agreed to maintain dialogue and communication through military and diplomatic channels, and arrive at a mutually acceptable solution for disengagement as early as possible.

“Both sides agreed to earnestly implement the important understandings reached by the leaders of the two countries, not to turn differences into disputes, and jointly safeguard peace and tranquillity in the border areas,” it added.

The talks at Chushul Monday were led by 14 corps commander Lt Gen. Harinder Singh, who will hand over the charge to Lt Gen. P.G.K. Menon this Wednesday, and take over as the commandant of the Indian Military Academy. They began at around 12 noon Monday, and went on for nearly 12 hours.

Both Sides Show A ‘Degree Of Flexibility’

The talks will pave the way for further diplomatic talks, sources in the defence and security establishment, and ahead of the 12th BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) summit, expected to be held on 17 November. Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to participate, sources said.

While there has been “no major breakthrough” in the talks at the LAC, especially with reference to the major friction points, a larger understanding has been reached between the sides that the situation should not get worse before the BRICS Summit.

The sources said that there was “some forward movement” and a “degree of flexibility shown by both sides”, and that a final call on some proposals will be taken by New Delhi after vetting them.

But they added that the slight softening of the stands may not mean any changes in the current friction points, and there is still a long way to go for actual disengagement.

The major friction points along the LAC include the ‘Finger 4’ area on the northern bank of the Pangong Tso, certain key features on the southern bank of the lake, the Y-junction at Depsang Plains, and the Galwan Valley and Hot Springs areas. Indian troops are currently not patrolling these areas.

The talks come at a time when the harsh winter has arrived in Ladakh, but thousands of troops are still deployed on both sides.

India is also “keenly watching” the stance taken at the 19th Chinese Communist Party Central Committee plenary, to be held from 26 to 29 October, sources said.

The Two Sides’ Stands

India has maintained since the beginning of the stand-off with China that disengagement should happen at all friction points, and not just on the southern bank of Pangong Tso, as China is insisting on.

Sources said the agenda of Monday’s meeting was to immediately address certain “non-contentious” issues where a common ground can easily be reached.

They added that as the scope of the conflict has increased beyond the major friction points, there has been troop deployment and forward posturing along the LAC.

“For instance, the patrolling activities could be reduced in certain areas and the battalion commanders will meet as frequently as possible to avoid any untoward incident, which may lead to sudden escalation,” a source said.

“There is also talk that observation posts deployed ahead of the main company localities would gradually be pulled in at certain places. Such confidence binding measures are aimed at reducing the trust deficit, which has remained at an all-time high since the Galwan Valley clash on 15 June,” the source added.

Eye On Winter

Sources also said this round of talks assumed more significance because decisions taken in the days to come will impact troop deployment throughout the harsh winter at the LAC.

“Any large-scale redeployment of troops or de-induction of troops will need to be carried out before the passes close by the last week of October,” a second source said, adding that this will be decided after analysing the outcome of the meeting.

While the situation at the LAC continues to be tense, various local confidence building measures will also continue to be taken.

In the last military-diplomatic talks, the Chinese stance was that they haven’t crossed the LAC, and that it is India that has intruded into their territory. India, however, maintained that it was China that began the stand-off by moving into some areas, particularly the Galwan Valley and Finger 4, and also initiated violence.