A hot line set up between both sides to further spirit of trust

The 12th round of military talks between India and China wrapped up on a positive note about the disengagement of troops from Hot Springs and Gogra on the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Modalities will be worked out on how to take the process forward. Officials had stated earlier that another round of Major General level talks is scheduled to be held very soon after the 12th round of talks. The build-up in Depsang was not being considered part of the current standoff that started in May last year as that escalation took place in 2013. India has insisted during military commander meetings to resolve all issues across the LAC

The initial attempt will be to resolve Gogra and Hot Springs. Finding a solution to Depsang might be tricky and take longer. India and China now plan to establish a no-patrolling or buffer zone at one of the ‘friction’ points in the Gogra Hot Springs-Kongka La sector. The phased disengagement with physical verification at Patrolling Point-17A is likely to kick off over the next few days, once an in-principle agreement reached during the 12th round of talks is ratified by the two governments.

The other friction point in the sector, PP-15 as well as the much more intractable issue of blocking Indian troop patrols in the Depsang Bulge, and the tents pitched inside Indian territory in the Damchok sector need to be further discussed with China. It is reported that both sides discussed “specific details to cool tempers in the remaining friction points including moving ahead with the disengagement process and agreed to jointly maintain stability on the ground”.

A hotline was established between Indian Army in Kongra La, North Sikkim, and PLA at Khamba Dzong in Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) to further the spirit of trust and cordial relations. Ground commanders of the respective armies attended the inauguration of PLA Day on August 1 and a message of friendship and harmony was exchanged through the hotline. The 12th round of military talks took place over two weeks after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar firmly conveyed to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi that the prolongation of the existing situation in eastern Ladakh was visibly impacting the bilateral ties in a “negative manner”. The two foreign ministers had held a one-hour bilateral meeting on the sidelines of a conclave of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Tajik capital city Dushanbe on July 14.

Jaishankar had told Wang that any unilateral change in the status quo along the LAC was “not acceptable” to India and that the overall ties can only develop after full restoration of peace and tranquillity in eastern Ladakh. In a joint statement, both sides said the two countries have agreed to expeditiously resolve the remaining issues in accordance with existing agreements and protocols and to maintain the pace of talks. They agreed to ensure stability along the LAC in the Western Sector as well, it said. In view of aggressive Chinese deployment in Tibet and eastern Ladakh, India has changed its posture towards China. Unlike its previous defensive approach that placed a premium on fending off Chinese aggression, India is now catering to military options to strike back and has reoriented its military accordingly.

India has reoriented around 50,000 troops whose main focus will be the disputed border with China. This comes when China is refurbishing its existing airfields in the Tibetan Plateau that will allow twin-engine fighter aircraft to be stationed there, sources said. In addition, China has also brought troops from the Tibet Military region to the Xinjiang region that passes through the Karakoram Range down south Uttarakhand.