At the recent military talks, the Chinese PLA pushed for starting the disengagement process from the southern bank of Pangong lake but the Indian Army conveyed that steps to defuse the standoff in eastern Ladakh should simultaneously cover all the friction points, government sources said here on September 25.
Though differences and contrasting views between the armies of India and China on the disengagement process marked the talks, both sides were on the same page that care should be taken to ensure that the overall situation in eastern Ladakh does not escalate, the sources said.
The Indian side also told the Chinese delegation that the talks on disengagement should include Depsang as well as all face-off sites, insisting that it should be a simultaneous process and not a selective one, they said. It also conveyed to the Chinese side that as the standoff began in early May due to aggressive actions by the Chinese troops, they should take the lead in disengaging from the friction points.
The Indian side made it clear to the Chinese People's Liberation Army(PLA) that any misadventure or aggressive behaviour by it will be met with firmly as India was determined to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity. In the aftermath of the Galwan Valley clashes in mid-June, the government had given the Army the free hand to firmly deal with any Chinese action including use of firearms.
The Corps commander-level meeting on Monday took place in the backdrop of deteriorating situation in the Chushul sector following three incidents of shots being fired in the air by the PLA soldiers since the intervening night of August 29 and 30. Following the incidents, India had occupied at least 20 strategic heights around southern and northern banks of Pangong lake.
It has been communicated to the Chinese side that the Indian Army will also not hesitate to resort to use of firearms in extreme circumstances to protect the country's territory in case Chinese troops resort to unacceptable level of aggression, the sources said. The Indian Army conveyed to the PLA that the strategic heights occupied by the former around the southern bank of Pangong lake since August 29 were well within the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and there was no question of withdrawing the troops from them, they said.
At the talks, the two sides agreed not to escalate the situation by announcing a series of measures. However, there was no breakthrough on the disengagement process. The sources said a series of talks will be required for the disengagement process to begin with.
They said once peace and tranquillity returns in eastern Ladakh, the two sides may think of new confidence building measures(CBMs) as decided at a meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries in Moscow on September 10. The new CBM in eastern Ladakh could include patrolling certain areas by two sides every alternate week. A similar arrangement is already in place in certain areas along the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh.
India on Thursday said it is necessary to ensure stability on the ground while the two sides work towards ensuring complete disengagement of troops in all friction areas in eastern Ladakh. At a virtual media briefing, Ministry of External Affairs(MEA) Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said disengagement is a complex process which would require mutually agreed "reciprocal actions", and the way ahead will be to refrain from making any attempts to unilaterally change the status quo.
The situation in eastern escalated manifold after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in the clashes in Galwan Valley on June 15. The Chinese side acknowledged suffering casualties, but it is yet to divulge the details. The situation further deteriorated following at least three attempts by the soldiers of the PLA 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.
As the tensions escalated further, External Affairs minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi held talks on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meet in Moscow on September 10 where they reached a five-point agreement to defuse the situation in eastern Ladakh. The agreement was the basis for the sixth round of Corps commander-level talks on Monday which was also attended for the first time by a joint secretary from the MEA.
The agreement aimed at ending the tense 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.