With the 13th round of Corps Commander-level talks between India and China ending inconclusively, disengagement from friction points such as Hot Springs and Depsang in eastern Ladakh remains elusive. Following a series of military and diplomatic parleys, the two sides had completed the disengagement process in Gogra area in August and the north and south banks of the Pangong lake in February. The meeting between Indian and Chinese foreign ministers in Tajikistan last month raised hopes of an early resolution of the remaining issues. However, the failure of the October 10 military talks, which were held over two months after the previous round, suggests that the current impasse might be protracted. An uneasy calm prevails on the ground, underlining the trust deficit between the neighbours.
The Indian Army has claimed that the ‘constructive suggestions’ made by it were not agreeable to China, while the Western Theatre Command (WTC) of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army has accused India of making ‘unreasonable and unrealistic demands, adding difficulties to the negotiations’. Both sides are preparing to dig in for the long haul with an eye on the coming winter, which is usually quite harsh in the areas in question. The Indian Army’s decision to rejig the tasking of its forces along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), in a bid to reduce the multiplicity of commands, is in consonance with its strategy of staying the course. The reworking of the command structure, which will not entail any movement or relocation of units, is expected to improve operational readiness and coordination.
India’s move mirrors China’s sharp focus on the WTC, which recently got its fourth Commander in a year or so. This theatre command not only oversees the border with India but also covers Xinjiang and Tibet Autonomous Region. The recent attempted incursions by Chinese troops in Barahoti sector (Uttarakhand) and Tawang sector (Arunachal Pradesh) show that the neighbour is in no mood to mend its ways. New Delhi needs to be more watchful to pre-empt another misadventure, while putting the ball in Beijing’s court to ensure long-term peace along the LAC.
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