Senior Indian and Chinese military commanders are set to meet at Chushul in eastern Ladakh on Tuesday to negotiate the next stage of disengagement between the two armies along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), with the talks expected to focus on reducing tensions in the Finger Area and Depsang plains as well as pulling back weapons from friction points, people familiar with the developments said on Monday.
This will be thefourth round of talks between the corps commander-ranked officersof the two armies who made previous attempts to reduce tensions along the disputed border on June 6, June 22 and June 30.
Negotiations are expected to be far harder this time as the continued presence of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the Finger Area and the Depsang sector could be the sticking point in the talks, said one of the officials cited above. The meeting is expected to begin at 11.30am.
In Tuesday’s talks, the two commanders are expected to discuss the step-wise withdrawal of weapons and equipment to mutually agreed distances from friction areas along the LAC and thinning the overall military buildup in the region, said a second official.
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This military dialogue will be followed by another meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs. The military commanders set the time-frame and method of disengagement while WMCC monitors the process.
The July 14 dialogue will be crucial as it will take up the Finger Area near Pangong Tso and the Depsang plains where there is Chinese intrusion across India’s perception of the LAC, said former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda (retd).
“In both these locations, the Indian side should insist on restoration of status quo ante as anything less than this could leave us with a territorial disadvantage,” Hooda added.
The military talks follow a series of steps taken by the two armies at friction points in Galwan Valley, Hot Springs and Gogra to implement a complex disengagement plan hammered out at the June 30 meeting between delegations led by Lieutenant General Harinder Singh, commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps, and Major General Liu Lin, commander of the South Xinjiang military region.
The current disengagement process began after the June 30 military dialogue and a subsequent conversation on July 5 between national security adviser Ajit Doval and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi.
Even as uncertainty persists in the Finger Area and Depsang plains, the army is monitoring the withdrawal of the PLA from Galwan Valley, Hot Springs and Gogra, where 4-km buffer zones have come up.
At the June 30 meeting, the Indian side reiterated its demand for the pullback of Chinese troops from friction points along the LAC and sought the restoration of status quo ante (the situation as it existed in early April) in the Finger Area, Galwan Valley, Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang plains, apart from emphasising the need for thinning the military build