Uneasy calm on Ladakh front as India and China prepare for military talks – Economic Times

NEW DELHI: Distrust remains high and the Army is at its highest level of alert as India and China prepare for the crucial military commander-level talks, which will reveal whether Beijing’s diplomatic and political overtures to resolve the Ladakh situation peacefully are matched by PLA’s actions on the ground.

An uneasy calm prevails in eastern Ladakh as the two sides have beefed up troops at two key border positions along the banks of the Pangong lake but the Army has not been taking any chances, with surveillance at an all-time high. Plans are also in place to maintain border outposts through the winter, with joint patrolling by the forces.

“No aggressive manoeuvres have been observed from the Chinese side over the past two days but the problem of trust continues as there seems to be a clear disconnect between diplomatic engagements with China and the actions of its troops on the border,” an official said.

A series of high-level meetings have been held at South Block to discuss the ongoing tensions as well as position to be taken at the upcoming corps commander-level talks. Sources said that a date hasn’t been finalised yet but it is likely to happen early this week.

While the immediate priority is to disengage the troops deployed in close proximity at several locations in the Chushul sub-sector and in the Finger Area, the Army is clear that de-escalation can only be achieved if the Chinese forces move back to their pre-April locations and vacate forward positions taken along the Line of Actual Control.

The key problem in taking the disengagement process ahead is trust, given the attempt by PLA to occupy key heights along the southern bank of the Pangong.

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Keeping in mind the fact that several talks have failed to make any headway, India is preparing to maintain border outposts and joint patrolling by forces despite harsh winter conditions.

These outposts, officials said, will be supported with supplies and logistics using choppers as most of them become inaccessible by roads during winters. “We have a large number of BOPs in forward areas. As the disengagement process is gradual and slow, we plan to deploy our troops in a graded manner during the winters,” said a senior official.

Officials familiar with the deployment said both Indian and Chinese troops continue in “eyeball-to-eyeball” positions at all the friction points along the LAC in Ladakh. However, the situation might ease after the military-level talks.

“The military commander-level meeting will reassess and redefine the whole process of de-escalation based on the discussions between two foreign ministers,” added another official.

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