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Indo-Chinese marathon military commanders talks fail to resolve differences

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Talks between senior military commanders of India and China on the second and more complex phase of de-escalation and disengagement which started on Tuesday lasted 15 hours, concluding in the early hours of Wednesday, Indian media reported.

A statement about the talks is unlikely from the Indian side on Wednesday, as it engages "internal deliberations" over the discussions, the media said.

This has led to some speculation that the talks had either hit a roadblock or the Chinese side had made a proposal that required consultations among the top military officers in New Delhi, perhaps also with political leaders. There was also speculation that the de-escalation at Depsang and Pangong Tso could take several more rounds of talks given the complexities involved.

However, Press Trust of India reported from Beijing that the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters that, "building on the consensus of the previous three rounds and the implementation of relevant work (the two sides have) reached progress on promoting further disengagement between troops at the Western Sector of the boundary and de-escalating tensions."

"We hope that India can work with China to implement our consensus with real actions and jointly safeguard peace and tranquility in the border areas," Hua stressed.

The discussions - between Lt Gen. Harinder Singh, commander of the Leh-based 14th Corps, and Maj. Gen. Liu Lin of the Chinese Liberation Army (PLA) who is in charge of the South Xinjiang Military District - were the fourth since 6 June. They took place in Chushul on the Indian side of the border in Ladakh. The two men have previously met on 6 June, 22 June and 30 June.

On the table, from the Indian side, was the restoration of status quo ante - or a complete withdrawal of Chinese troops to positions they occupied in April. The Chinese have made inroads into what is seen as Indian territory in the Pangong Tso area and in Depsang plains in eastern Ladakh, according to the Indian media.

India, incidentally, has 65 PPs along the LAC in eastern Ladakh. "The perception of LAC at Depsang vastly differs between the two sides. India will reiterate that the usual norm should be restored there about not blocking each other's patrols," the Times of India quoted officials as saying.

At Pangong Tso, the Chinese continue to occupy the heights at Finger 4 despite having moved away towards Finger 5. The "Fingers" refer to mountain folds jutting into the lake.

India holds till Finger 4 and used to patrol to Finger 8 with the Line of Actual Control on Indian maps marked as crossing the lake at Finger 8. The Chinese side holds territory till Finger 8 while it claims up to Finger 4.

Tellingly, China had previously demanded that India vacate positions till Finger 2 i.e. moving back from the current position it holds - a demand not acceptable to India. As it stands, India holds one third of the lake and the Chinese side holds the remaining two-thirds.

In the Depsang plains, the Chinese are seen as having come 18-20 kilometres Indian territory. The Depsang plains are seen as a crucial area for India given that it lies close to the strategic Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie road. The DSDBO road, as it is called, runs through heights ranging between 13,000 feet and 16,000 feet and connects Leh to India's highest landing strip - Daulet Beg Oldie -- at the base of the Karakoram Pass, that separates China's Xinjiang province from Ladakh.

With the disengagements currently under way, the concern in Delhi is the PLA's strategy might be a "many steps forward and a few steps back" approach. With the new PLA training module in place until 2021, officials believe this summer's events may not be the last, the Hindu said.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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