The Indian and Chinese military will hold the fourth round of talks between their senior commanders on Tuesday with a focus on finalising modalities for the next phase of de-escalation and disengagement of troops in eastern Ladakh in a ‘time-bound’ manner, government sources said on Monday.
The high-level meeting is scheduled to begin at 11:30 AM in Chushul on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, they said.
The key focus of the talks will be to launch the phase two of the disengagement process including in Pangong Tso and Depsang, besides withdrawal of forces and weapons from the rear bases in a time-bound manner, the sources said.
They said the Indian side will insist on “total restoration” of status quo ante in all areas of eastern Ladakh prior to May 5 when the standoff began following a clash between the troops of India and China in Pangong Tso.
The two sides are also expected to finalise a roadmap for overall restoration of peace and tranquility in the high-altitude region that witnessed an eight-week bitter standoff between the Indian and Chinese troops.
The Indian delegation at the talks is expected to be led by Lt Gen Harinder Singh, the commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps, while the Chinese side is likely to be headed by Major General Liu Lin, commander of the South Xinjiang military region.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has already completed pulling back troops from Gogra, Hot Springs and Galwan Valley and significantly thinned down its presence in the ridgeline of Finger Four in the Pangong Tso area in the last one week as demanded by India.
India has been insisting that China must withdraw its forces from areas between Finger Four and Eight. The mountain spurs in the area are referred to as Fingers.
The formal process of disengagement of troops began last Monday after a nearly two-hour telephonic conversation between National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi the previous day.
On Friday, India and China held another round of diplomatic talks during which both sides resolved to push ahead with “complete disengagement” of troops in eastern Ladakh in a timely manner for “full restoration” of peace and tranquility.
At the meeting, it was decided that senior commanders of the two armies will meet “soon” to discuss further steps to “ensure complete disengagement and de-escalation”.
The two countries have already held three rounds of Lt General-level talks and the last one took place on June 30 during which both sides agreed on an “expeditious, phased and step wise” de-escalation as a “priority” to end the standoff.
The first round of the Lt General talks was held on June 6 during which both sides finalised an agreement to disengage gradually from all the standoff points beginning with Galwan Valley.
However, the situation deteriorated following the Galwan Valley clashes on June 15 as the two sides significantly bolstered their deployments in most areas along the LAC. The second round of talks took place on June 22.
The Indian and Chinese armies were locked in a bitter standoff in multiple locations in eastern Ladakh for over eight weeks since May 5.
The tension escalated manifold after the violent clashes in Galwan Valley in which 20 Indian Army personnel were killed. The Chinese side also suffered casualties but it is yet to give out the details. According to an American intelligence report, the number of casualties on the Chinese side was 35.
Tensions had escalated in eastern Ladakh around two months back after around 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers were engaged in a violent face-off on May 5 and 6. The incident in Pangong Tso was followed by a similar incident in north Sikkim on May 9.