During the ninth Corps Commander-level talks, held in Moldo on Sunday, India told the Chinese side that a complete resolution will only be possible if they pull back their troops and weapons systems across eastern Ladakh and not limit the disengagement to Pangong Lake

Indian and Chinese troops have been locked in a border standoff in eastern Ladakh for nearly nine months now

India made its stand clear during the ninth Corps Commander-level talks that a complete resolution will only be possible if the Chinese de-induct their troops and weapons systems from multiple locations across eastern Ladakh and not limit the disengagement to Pangong Lake, sources said.

The Pangong Lake has been the focus of the tussle over the last nine months as standoff continues in eastern Ladakh with heavy deployment from both sides.

Sources said while the discussions were “fruitful”, it was conveyed that all other pending issues need to be resolved.

“Our stand was that they need to withdraw troops from several friction points. These include the Depsang plains, heights around Gogra among some other locations,” said an official privy to the developments.

Another official said, “Once again, restoration of status quo as of April 2020 - before the standoff in Ladakh began - was impressed upon by the Indian side.”

In the Depsang area, the Chinese have strengthened their positions over the last five-six years and during the current standoff, there was a further build-up including tanks being brought in.

“It was felt that it’s the right time to talk about other issues as well. The Indian side was firm that all issues should be resolved,” said an official.

"Positive, practical and constructive talks"

The ninth round of talks took place on the Chinese side in Moldo. The meeting started at around 10.30 am on Sunday and continued for 16 hours ending at 2.30 am on Monday.

According to an official joint statement by India and China, the two sides had a candid and in-depth exchange of views on disengagement along the “Line of Actual Control in the western sector of China-India border areas”.

The two sides agreed to continue their effective efforts in ensuring the restraint of the frontline troops, stabilise and control the situation along the LAC, the statement said.

The two sides agreed that this round of meeting was positive, practical and constructive, which further enhanced mutual trust and understanding, it said.

“The two sides agreed to push for an early disengagement of the frontline troops. They also agreed to follow the important consensus of their state leaders, maintain the good momentum of dialogue and negotiation, and hold the 10th round of the Corps Commander Level Meeting at an early date to jointly advance de-escalation,” the statement said.

According to the statement, India and China agreed to “continue their effective efforts in ensuring the restraint of the frontline troops, stabilise and control the situation along the LAC in the Western Sector of the China-India border, and jointly maintain peace and tranquillity.”

Three-Step Phased De-Escalation

This meeting comes more than two months after the previous talks on November 6, 2020, where a three-step phased de-escalation was discussed but there was a freeze on any further developments.

The India-China standoff has now entered its ninth month as both sides continue with heavy deployment of troops, artillery guns, tanks and armoured vehicles in close proximity.

The tensions started with skirmishes in Pangong Lake in May when troops came to blows on more than one occasion leaving many injured on both sides.

On June 15, 2020, in an ugly clash in another area called the Galwan Valley, 20 Indian soldiers died, while the Chinese never made their casualty public.

As per earlier proposals, the ‘Finger’ area on the northern bank of the Pangong Lake could turn into a temporary no man’s land with Indian or Chinese troops not carrying out patrols as a measure to ease tensions and find a breakthrough the deadlock.

For a phased de-escalation the contentious conflict zone between Finger 4 to Finger 8 could become a no patrolling zone for some time, as per the proposal.

If this resulted in the de-induction of troops as weapons and a pullback to positions as of April 2020, in the next phase India would also vacate heights occupied on the Kailash range on the southern side of the lake.

In the third phase, areas like Depsang plains - that had been tense for the last five-six years due to the induction of troops and weapon systems - could be focused upon for a complete de-escalation, sources said.

The Indian Army, in a counter operation, has occupied unmanned heights that gave it a strategic advantage as the positions overlook China’s military garrison in Moldo and other key military positions.