India, China hold 6th round of talks on border standoff
New Delhi : Senior army commanders of India and China on Monday held talks on implementing a five-point agreement reached between the two countries on disengagement of troops and de-escalation of the tense situation in eastern Ladakh, government sources said. The sixth round of Corps commander-level talks began at around 9 am in Moldo on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control across India’s Chushul sector in eastern Ladakh, they said. The Indian delegation is headed by Lt Gen Harinder Singh, the commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps of the Indian Army. The team also included a joint secretary-level officer from the ministry of external affairs and Lt. Gen PGK Menon, who is expected to succeed Singh as the commander of the 14 Corps next month, the sources said. It is for the first time that a senior official from the MEA was part of the high-level military talks aimed at defusing the volatile situation in the mountainous region. Maj Gen Liu Lin, the commander of the South Xinjiang military region, is slated to lead the Chinese delegation. “The meeting is underway,” said a source. The government sources said the agenda for the Monday talks was to chart a specific timeline for implementation of the agreement reached between the two countries at a meeting between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meet in Moscow on September 10. The agreement aimed at ending the over four-month-long border standoff included measures like quick disengagement of troops, avoiding action that could escalate tensions, adherence to all agreements and protocols on border management and steps to restore peace along the LAC. Military sources, meanwhile, said the newly-inducted Rafale jets started carrying out sorties in eastern Ladakh as part of measures to give a boost to the overall combat readiness in view of the “provocative actions” by Chinese troops in the last three weeks. The deployment of French-made Rafale jets in Ladakh came less than 10 days after they were formally inducted into the Indian Air Force. At a ceremony in Ambala on September 10 where five Rafale jets were inducted into the IAF, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said this was crucial considering the atmosphere being created along the frontier and was also a “big and stern” message to those eyeing India’s sovereignty. The sources said the army has made elaborate arrangements to maintain the current level of troops and weapons in all forward areas in eastern Ladakh and other sensitive high-altitude sectors in the harsh winter months when the temperature drops up to minus 25 degree Celsius. They said the situation remained tense at both the southern and northern bank of the Pangong lake area as well as in other friction points. There have been at least three attempts by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to “intimidate” Indian troops along the northern and southern bank of Pangong lake area in the last three weeks where even shots were fired in the air for the first time at the LAC in 45 years. The situation in eastern Ladakh deteriorated after China unsuccessfully attempted to occupy Indian territory in the southern bank of Pangong Lake on the intervening night of August 29 and 30. On September 7, the Chinese troops again made an unsuccessful bid to close in on the Indian position and even fired shots in the air in the Mukhpari area of Rezang-La ridgeline on the southern bank of Pangong lake. As Jaishankar and Wang were set to hold talks in Moscow, Chinese soldiers fired a barrage of “warning shots” in the air on the North Bank of Pangong lake to “intimidate” the Indian troops, Indian Army sources had said. India occupied a number of strategic heights on the southern bank of Pangong lake and strengthened its presence in Finger 2 and Finger 3 areas in the region to thwart any Chinese actions.