The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) carried out “provocative military movements” on the southern bank of Pangong Tso on the night of August 29/30 to change the status quo in the area, the Indian Army said in a statement on Monday.
The army said it pre-empted the Chinese move. So far Chinese aggression was confined to the lake’s northern bank—the Finger Area.
The statement said the army took measures to strengthen its positions and thwart the PLA’s intention to unilaterally change facts on the ground on the lake’s southern bank.
“The Indian Army is committed to maintaining peace and tranquillity through dialogue, but is also equally determined to protect its territorial integrity,” the statement said. A brigade commander-level flag meeting is in progress at Chushul to resolve the issues.
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The army said the PLA violated the previous consensus arrived at during military and diplomatic engagements during the ongoing standoff in eastern Ladakh. The development comes at a time when talks with China to reduce border tensions in eastern Ladakh are at a stalemate.
India and China were unable to bridge their differences on the disengagement and de-escalation process along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC) during recent diplomatic talks, with New Delhi emphasising the need to resolve “outstanding issues” speedily, as reported by Hindustan Times on August 20.
People familiar with developments during the meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs dismissed an assertion in a readout from the Chinese foreign ministry that the two sides had “positively evaluated the progress” in the disengagement process.
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The military dialogue between senior commanders from the two sides has hit a roadblock due to Chinese reluctance to restore status quo ante in some key friction areas along the LAC. The commanders set the time-frame and method of disengagement while the WMCC monitors the process.
No dates have yet been fixed for the next round of talks between corps commander-ranked officers who have so far met five times but failed to break the deadlock.
The sizeable Chinese troop presence at friction points, particularly Pangong Lake and Depsang, remains an area of key concern for the Indian Army. The Finger Area—a set of eight cliffs jutting out of Sirijap range overlooking Pangong Lake—has emerged as the hardest part of the disengagement process. Disengagement has progressed somewhat smoothly at friction points in Galwan Valley and Hot Springs, but its pace remains sluggish in Gogra area.
There is growing consensus among Indian officials and China experts that military talks are unlikely to deliver further results, and the resolution of the issue will require political and diplomatic intervention. De-escalation along the disputed border can only begin after complete disengagement between the two armies on the LAC. The ground situation remains unchanged in Ladakh sector, where both armies have deployed almost 100,000 soldiers and weaponry in their forward and depth areas.
Last week, India pulled out of a multi-nation army exercise being hosted by Russia in which around 20 countries including China are expected to take part next month. Exercise Kavkaz-2020 will be held in southern Russia’s Astrakhan region from September 15 to 27. The Pakistan army is also likely to take part in the joint drills that are part of a four-year exercise cycle of the Russian army.