China has not yet confirmed the dates for the next round of military talks to resolve the border standoff in eastern Ladakh, keeping New Delhi “waiting and guessing”, defence ministry officials said.
Military veterans have long been suggesting that China is uninterested in any more disengagements (pullbacks) — particularly from the strategic Depsang Plains that would be on the talks agenda — and plans to hold on to the territory it occupies now within India-claimed lines.
Sources in the defence ministry said the 17th round of corps commander-level talks were supposed to take place by last week, after the 16th round of talks were held in September.
“The Chinese side has not yet confirmed the final dates for the proposed talks. It seems they want to keep us waiting and guessing,” an official said.
“The issue of disengagement from the Depsang Plains, where the Chinese are estimated to be entrenched 18km inside India-claimed lines, is to be taken up during the 17th round of talks.”
An intelligence report last month had suggested the Chinese were building additional roads, helipads and military camps in the occupied areas, deepening the fears that Beijing wanted to declare a news status quo on the Line of Actual Control. After the September talks, Chinese troops had disengaged partially from Gogra by creating a demilitarised “buffer zone”, which means Indian troops too had to retreat by an equal distance inside India-claimed lines.
Similar buffer zones had been created in the past within Indian territory at the Galwan Valley, Pangong Lake and Hot Springs, prompting military veterans to express anguish that India had not only failed to drive the Chinese out but was “ceding further territory” to them.
The Depsang Plains remain the only friction point where no disengagement has taken place since the Chinese transgressed across India-claimed lines in Ladakh in May 2020.
Government sources said the situation at the friction points continued to be tense, with both countries massing additional troops along the frontier.