Respect peace protocols at borders: India to China
After ensuring that troops have withdrawn from the stand-off sites at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh, India and China mutually agreed on modalities to implement the next phase of disengagement. In the 15-hour marathon talks, India also made it clear that all protocols for border management for maintaining peace have to be followed.
This was the fourth round of talks between the Corps Commanders Lt General Harinder Singh and Major General Liu Lin on Tuesday in Chushul, Ladakh, in the last one and a half months with the Indian side also insisting in the latest round that onus is on China to pull back speedily, sources said here on Wednesday.
Given the sensitive nature of talks, Army Chief General M M Naravane held at least two sessions of talks in New Delhi on Wednesday to anaylse the parleys. He later briefed the top political leadership while senior commanders also apprised the China Study Group. This high-powered group comprises senior officials of Home, Defence and External Affairs Ministries.
In a related development, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will make an on the spot review of the situation on the LAC during a two-day visit starting July 17. The Army Chief will accompany the Minister who is likely to visit some forward posts in Ladakh. Rajnath was earlier scheduled to visit Leh on July 3. It was postponed as Prime Minister Narendra Modi toured the forward areas there on July 3.
Reacting to the latest round, China on Wednesday said the parleys held to reduce tension at the border had made progress in disengaging troops in the western section of the disputed boundary.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it hoped New Delhi would work with Beijing to safeguard peace and tranquility in the border areas.
Responding to a query on the talks, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said: “As I know on July 14, border troops of China and India held the fourth round of commander-level talks building on the consensus of the previous three rounds and the implementation of relevant work have reached progress on promoting further disengagement between troops at the western section of the boundary and de-escalating tensions.”
“We hope India can work with China to implement our consensus with real actions and jointly safeguard peace and tranquility in the border areas,” she said in her short response without sharing details or elaborating on the exact agenda of the talks.
As regards the Corps Commander level talks which ended at 2.00 am on Wednesday after starting at 11.30 am on Tuesday, there was no official word in New Delhi so far. However, sources said the Indian military conveyed a “very clear” message that status quo ante must be restored in eastern Ladakh.
The two commanders agreed to keep all line of communication open and are likely to meet again next week to review the second phase of disengagement. It comprises troops from both sides retreating more than three to four km from all the stand-off sites.
The two commanders also agreed to take stock of the pace of thinning out troops from the depth areas besides withdrawal of heavy weapons to peace time areas. Both the armies had deployed additional troops in thousands during the eight-week stand-off at four sites thereby adding to tension on the border.
Incidentally, during the third round of talks on June 30, the two commanders agreed on an “expeditious, phased and step wise” de-escalation as a “priority” to end the stand-off.
Officials said the main focus of the latest round was on finalising a framework for a “time-bound and verifiable” disengagement process from all the friction points like Pangong Tso and Depsang and pulling back large numbers of troops and weapons.
The Indian delegation also conveyed concerns over China’s “new claim lines” in the region, and insisted that Beijing must adhere to earlier framework on carrying out patrolling in the areas, sources said.
On ground situation, they said the first phase of the disengagement process from the friction points was more or less complete. The Chinese army has already pulled back troops from Gogra, Hot Springs and Galwan Valley. It also significantly thinned down its presence in the ridgeline of Finger Four in the Pangong Tso area in the last one week as demanded by India.
In line with a mutually agreed decision, the two sides created a minimum buffer zone of three km in most of the friction points where they were locked in a stand-off.
The disengagement of troops began on July 6, a day after a nearly two-hour telephonic conversation between National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on ways to bring down tension in the area.
The first round of the Corps Commanders was held on June 6 during which both sides finalised an agreement to disengage gradually from all the stand-off points beginning with Galwan Valley.
However, the situation deteriorated following the Galwan Valley clashes on June 15 as the two sides significantly bolstered their deployments in most areas along the LAC. The second round of talks took place on June 22 while the third on June 30.
Thursday, 16 July 2020 | PNS | New Delhi