New Delhi: India and China on Saturday held another round of military talks with a focus on taking forward the disengagement process in Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang areas in eastern Ladakh and bring down the tensions in the region.
The 10th round of Corps Commander-level talks are taking place two days after the Chinese and Indian militaries completed the withdrawal of troops, weapons and other military hardware from the North and South banks of Pangong lake areas as part of an agreement.
The meeting started at 10 am at the Moldo border point on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control and it was continuing at 2:30 pm, news agency PTI said.
Official sources told the news agency that India will insist on a faster disengagement process in areas like Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang to reduce tensions in a region that has witnessed a tense standoff between the two militaries for over nine months.
“The focus of the talks is on carrying forward the disengagement process,” said a source.
On February 11, defence minister Rajnath Singh announced in parliament that India and China had reached an agreement on disengagement in the North and South banks of Pangong lake that mandates both sides to “cease” forward deployment of troops in a “phased, coordinated and verifiable” manner.
Under the agreement, he said China will pull back its troops to east of the Finger 8 areas in the northern bank of Pangong lake while the Indian army forces will be based at their permanent base at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3 in the region. Similar action would take place on the south bank of the lake as well, he said.
The mountain spurs in the area are referred to as Fingers.
The sources said troops of both sides have retreated to positions that were agreed upon.
The disengagement process began on February 10.
The Indian delegation at Saturday’s talks is being led by Lieutenant General P.G.K. Menon, the Commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps. The Chinese side was to be headed by Major General Liu Lin, the commander of the South Xinjiang military district of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
In his statement in parliament, the defence minister also said that it was agreed to convene the next meeting of senior commanders of both sides within 48 hours of completion of the disengagement in the Pangong lake areas so as to resolve all other remaining issues.
Days later, the defence ministry said other outstanding “problems” including in Depsang, Hot Springs and Gogra will be taken up at the upcoming talks between military commanders of the two countries.
The border standoff between the Indian and Chinese militaries erupted on May 5 following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas and both sides gradually enhanced their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry even as the two sides continued military and diplomatic talks.
While India said 20 soldiers were killed in another clash at Galwan valley in June, China for the first time admitted on Friday that it had suffered casualties too.
Last year, the Chinese military built several bunkers and other structures in the areas between Finger 4 and 8 and had blocked all Indian patrols beyond Finger 4, triggering a strong reaction from the Indian Army.
In the nine rounds of military talks, India had specifically insisted on the withdrawal of Chinese troops from Finger 4 to Finger 8 on the North bank of Pangong Lake.
On its part, the Chinese side was insisting on the withdrawal of Indian troops from several strategic peaks on the southern bank of the lake. Around five months ago, Indian troops occupied a number of strategic heights in the Mukhpari, Rechin La and Magar hill areas around the southern bank after the Chinese PLA attempted to intimidate them in the area.
(With PTI inputs)