Sources said the rival senior military officers may have to revert to their political-military hierarchy for “fresh directions” if the “respective positions of their armies” cannot be bridged in the meeting at the Chushul-Moldo border personnel meeting (BPM) point in eastern Ladakh.
But there were some conciliatory signals on Friday, with joint secretary-level diplomatic talks being held between India and China through video-conferencing. The Chinese foreign ministry in Beijing also reiterated its commitment “to properly resolve the relevant issue” with India.
At the military-level, the fact that the meeting will be held at the Moldo hut of PLA makes it clear that China extended the invite for the talks. The Indian military delegation will be led by 14 Corps commander Lt-General Harinder Singh, who will cross-over into Chinese territory for the dialogue.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA), in turn, will be represented by the commander of the South Xinjiang Military District, Major General Liu Lin, who is a rank lower but oversees the Line of Actual Control (LAC) opposite Ladakh.
The Indian position will essentially be four-pronged in the meeting. It will stress on the restoration of status quo ante by de-induction of troops and heavy weaponry in all areas, no blocking of Indian infrastructure development within its own territory, strict instructions to the Chinese troops to desist from “unacceptable violence” and restoration of the trust deficit between the two armies, as was reported by TOI in its edition on Friday.
China has certainly shown an “aggressive” stance all along the 3,488-km LAC after its PLA soldiers intruded into Indian territory in large numbers at multiple points in eastern Ladakh as well as north Sikkim in a well-planned operation early last month.
The face-off in the Naku La sector in north Sikkim has somewhat eased off now. But the major troop confrontations at the Pangong Tso (Tso means lake), Gogra-Hot Springs area and Galwan Valley region in Ladakh continue as before, with both sides being backed by additional battalions, artillery guns and armoured vehicles in the “rear areas”.
The clearest indication of the hardened Chinese position is the way they have actively blocked Indian soldiers from their decades-old patrolling from “Finger-4 to Finger-8 areas” (mountainous spurs) on the northern bank of Pangong Tso by deploying troops and building makeshift bunkers on what India considers to be its territory.
Both sides will come to the military talks with “well-prepared texts, questions and concerns” on Saturday. “The broad contours and positions are now known after several rounds of military talks between local commanders, including three at the major-general level. If there is a consensus, the modalities for de-escalation can be discussed and probably finalized,” said a source.