Months after India and China agreed to withdraw troops from PP15 in Gogra Hot Springs on September 12, both countries are attempting to carry it forward with talks for disengagement at the remaining stand-off points at Depsang and Demchok areas of eastern Ladakh at the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe broached the issue on the sidelines of the 9th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus in Siem Reap, Cambodia, on November 23, with Singh taking a position to roll out the process of opening the communication at the military Commanders level, top Defence Ministry sources said.

Fenghe even suggested talks at a higher level, between the two governments, ministry sources said. Singh also recommended disengagement and de-escalation for restoring complete normalcy at the LAC. The Chinese side may get back later after deliberations, said the ministry sources.

Both the neighbours have expressed willingness to take up the other two friction points at Depsang and Demchok areas but the structured dialogue is yet to begin. After settling the PP15, China had said the situation at the border was overall stable after “the phase of emergency response” since the May 2020 Galwan Valley face off. Negotiating on the two friction points would be a tough call, believe government sources, due to the fact that China has so far stood its ground in not accepting India’s stand to restore the status quo prior to PLA’s transgressions. Beijing had counter-alleged that India illegally crossed the LAC.

India, however, is not lowering its guard given that Beijing has not shown any intent to cut back its military presence at the LAC. The government is also improving its border infrastructure and has tried to match heavily armed deployment even as the harsh winter sets in at the high altitude of eastern Ladakh. Besides that, India is closely monitoring the PLA’s dominating naval presence in the Indian Ocean Region.

Highest-level engagements between India and China have not happened since the relationship got strained post-Galwan face off except for Prime Minister Narendra Modi shaking hands with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping at an event on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Bali on November 15.