India, China holding talks to resolve Ladakh row at earliest: MEA

Indian and Chinese troops were in an eyeball-to-eyeball situation since May 5 following a violent clash on the banks of the Pangong lake.
India on Thursday said it is maintaining military and diplomatic engagements with China to peacefully resolve the eastern Ladakh row at the "earliest" even as troops from the two armies stuck to their aggressive posturing in several friction points in the Himalayan region.

At a weekly media briefing, Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Anurag Srivastava said both sides agreed to work for an early resolution to the issue in sync with broader guidance provided by the leaders of the two countries for ensuring peace and tranquillity along the border areas.

The spokesperson, however, did not respond to a volley of questions relating to reports of disengagement of troops by both sides from certain areas including in Galwan Valley and Hot Spring in eastern Ladakh in the last few days.

Military sources said notwithstanding the ongoing talks, India has deployed more troops in almost all the sensitive areas along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, North Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh as part of its strategy to bolster military strength on par with China.

The sources also said both sides continued their eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation in Pangong Tso and several other areas in eastern Ladakh.

"A meeting was held between core commanders of India and China on June 6. This meeting was in continuation of our diplomatic and military engagement which both sides maintained in order to address the situation in areas along the India-China border," the MEA spokesperson said.

"It was agreed in the meeting that an early resolution of the situation would be in keeping with guidance of our leaders. The two sides are, therefore, maintaining military and diplomatic engagements to peacefully resolve the situation at earliest and also to ensure peace and tranquillity in the border areas," he said.

"This is essential for further development of India-China bilateral relations," Srivastava said.

In their historic informal summit in Chinese city of Wuhan in 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping underscored the importance of maintaining peace and tranquillity in all areas of the India-China border region in the interest of the development of bilateral relations.

The summit had taken place months after a 73-day military face-off between the two armies in Doklam that raised fears of a war between the two Asian giants.

Military sources on Tuesday claimed that the two armies began "disengagement" around patrolling points 14 and 15 in Galwan Valley and another in the Hot Spring area, adding the Chinese side has even moved back up to 1.5 km in the two areas.

However, there was no official word on it so far.

In their first serious efforts to end the row, Lt General Harinder Singh, the general officer commanding of Leh-based 14 Corps, and Commander of the Tibet Military District Maj Gen Liu Lin held a nearly seven-hour meeting on June 6.

In the next one week, the field commanders of the two sides are slated to hold a series of meetings to discuss specific measures to defuse the tension.

On Wednesday, the two sides held Major General-level talks to ease tension in the areas.

In the over four-and-half-hour dialogue, the Indian delegation pressed for total restoration of status quo ante and immediate withdrawal of thousands of Chinese troops from the areas which India considers on its side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the sources said.

After the standoff began in early last month, Indian military leadership decided that Indian troops will adopt a firm approach in dealing with the aggressive posturing by the Chinese troops in all disputed areas of Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie.

The Chinese Army has been gradually ramping up its strategic reserves in its rear bases near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) by rushing in artillery guns, infantry combat vehicles and heavy military equipment, the sources said.

The trigger for the face-off was China's stiff opposition to India laying a key road in the Finger area around the Pangong Tso Lake, besides construction of another road connecting the Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie road in Galwan Valley.

The road in the Finger area in Pangong Tso is considered crucial for India to carry out patrol. India has already decided not to stall any border infrastructure projects in eastern Ladakh in view of Chinese protests.

The situation in the area deteriorated 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.

The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488-km-long LAC. China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet while India contests it.

Both sides have been asserting that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, it is necessary to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas. 

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