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SOURCE: HT

There is no indication of when India and China will hold the next round of military talks to defuse border tensions in eastern Ladakh despite both countries agreeing to hold the corps commander-level dialogue at an early date during recent diplomatic talks on the lingering dispute, people familiar with the developments said on Monday.

At the virtual meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs on December 18, India and China agreed that the next round of meeting between senior commanders should be held at an early date for “early and complete disengagement of troops” along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC).

“Neither side has proposed any date for the military dialogue yet. Any breakthrough in resolving the border row is unlikely without political/diplomatic intervention,” the people cited above said. The two sides have held eight rounds of military talks so far but failed to make any progress in resolving the row.

During the eighth round of talks, the Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said they will ensure their front-line soldiers “exercise restraint and avoid misunderstanding and miscalculation” along the LAC.

Experts said talks were deadlocked because of yawning differences between the two sides.

“The basic reason (for talks yielding no results) is that the positions of the two sides on the conditions of disengagement remain too far apart. Unless these conditions are reconciled in diplomatic or political level talks, interaction between the militaries will serve little purpose,” said former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda (retd).

Both India and China are prepared for a long haul in the Ladakh sector and are firm about holding forward positions along the LAC through the harsh winter months.

“Prior to the onset of the winter, there was some incentive for both sides to reach an agreement so that troops could be pulled out before the winter. That incentive could also have disappeared now that troops are prepared to hold ground through the winter,” said Hooda.

While India has consistently pushed for comprehensive disengagement at all flashpoints and restoration of status quo ante of early April during the military talks, the Chinese side wants the Indian Army to first pull back troops deployed on strategic heights on the southern bank of Pangong Tso.

The Indian Army swiftly moved and occupied a series of key heights to prevent the PLA from grabbing Indian territory on the southern bank in a stealthy midnight move on August 29.

The Indian Army now controls ridgeline positions on the southern bank of Pangong Tso that allow it to completely dominate the sector and keep an eye on Chinese military activity, with the positions scattered across Rezang La, Reqin pass, Gurung Hill and Magar heights.

The Indian Army has also taken control of key heights overlooking the PLA’s deployments on the Finger 4 ridge line on the northern bank of Pangong Tso where rival soldiers are deployed barely a few hundred metres from each other. The developments on both banks of Pangong Tso have increased India’s bargaining power during talks with the Chinese side, as previously reported by Hindustan Times.