16-hr-long talks fail to end LAC impasse

NEW DELHI: : There was no concrete breakthrough in the marathon military talks between India and China in deescalating the remaining ‘friction points’ at Gogra, Hot Springs, Demchok and Depsang Plains in eastern Ladakh, but the two reiterated their commitment to work for a mutually-acceptable resolution through further dialogue.

“The two sides will push for a mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues in a steady and orderly manner, so as to jointly maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas,” said a joint statement issued after the 10th round of corps commanderlevel talks, which began at 10 am on Saturday and finished at 2 am on Sunday.

It said the two sides “agreed to follow the important consensus of their state leaders, continue their communication and dialogue, and stabilise and control the situation on the ground”. Sources said the two sides agreed to take forward the stalled disengagement process at Patrolling Points (PPs) 15 and 17A in Hot Springs-Gogra but the question of rival troop deployments near the area proved a roadblock. “No specific agreement could be achieved… some more talks are required,” a source said.

The “older” issues of friction at the Charding Ninglung Nallah (CNN) track junction in Demchok sector and the strategically-located Depsang Plains were even more intractable, sources said. India, during the meeting, strongly objected to the blocking of its military patrols from going to their traditional PPs 10, 11, 11A, 12, and 13 in the Depsang area, which are well short of India’s perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the region. “The Depsang problem, which has been a continuous source of friction since 2013, was not directly part of the multiple faceoffs that erupted in eastern Ladakh last May. But it is also on the discussion table now, especially since it could lead to major escalation in the future,” a source said.

The PLA can now intercept Indian patrols much more swiftly in the ‘Bottleneck’ area, which is 18 km inside what India perceives to be its territory, after it constructed motorised roads in the area after 2013. “One way out could be for both sides to accept the patrolling rights of each other in Depsang till the LAC can be clarified in the future,” he added.

The two delegations, led by 14 Corps commander Lt-General P G K Menon and South Xinjiang Military District chief Major General Liu Lin, have taken the proposals exchanged during the “candid and indepth” meeting to their respective political hierarchies for further consultations.

The joint statement said the two sides “positively appraised the smooth completion of disengagement” from both sides of the Pangong Tso, noting that it was “a significant step forward that provided a good basis for resolution of other remaining issues along the LAC in the western sector”.

Sources said the ongoing military talks are “not connected” to the LAC ‘clarification’ and overall boundary resolution process. “China has been dragging its feet on the proposed clarification of the 3,488-km LAC, which will help prevent faceoffs. The clarification process has to be dealt with diplomatically,” the source said.

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