Indo-China talks: Deadlock continues
Beijing betrayed unwillingness to restore the pre-April 2020 status in eastern Ladakh during Wednesday’s military talks and pressed India to accept the altered frontier created by the Chinese transgressions, sources in the security establishment told The Telegraph on Friday.
Indian military veterans have been citing the absence of any mention of status quo ante in recent joint statements to suggest the Chinese intend to hold on to the territory they have occupied and create a new status quo at the frontier.
“The Chinese want to disengage from the friction points on their own terms. During Wednesday’s talks, they insisted that India accept the current status quo in eastern Ladakh,” a security official attached to the Union home ministry said.
Another security official said the Chinese also stalled a suggestion for the restoration of patrolling in the buffer (demilitarised) zones created at multiple friction points as part of disengagement agreements between the two armies.
“The Indian side took up the issue of the restoration of patrolling in the buffer zones but the Chinese remained non-committal,” he said.
Military veterans had earlier said that India should address the issue of the buffer zones as these seemed to represent a “new status quo”.
India and China had agreed to step back by equal distances at multiple friction points across the LAC by creating buffer zones, with the upshot that the Chinese still remained within India-claimed lines while India appeared to cede control of more of its territory.
Contacted, a defence ministry official said: “Patrolling by India’s army continues to remain suspended at these demilitarised zones. These buffer zones were temporary and were created as part of the disengagement agreement with both sides ceding patrolling rights till the standoff was resolved.”
The official refused to comment how long this would continue. “India has not given up its right to patrol those areas and the issue was raised during the latest military talks,” he said.
India’s army chief, General M.M. Naravane, had at his annual news conference on Wednesday said there had been partial disengagement in eastern Ladakh but the threat at the China frontier had “by no means reduced”.
He said the Chinese had built a lot of infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control and raised their troop deployment manifold. “It remains to be seen whether they will permanently station them there or will be amenable for some de-induction in the times to come,” Naravane had said.
While the Chinese have pulled back partially in the Pangong Lake, Galwan Valley and Gogra, with the creation of buffer zones, they are refusing to budge from the remaining two friction points, Hot Springs and the Depsang Plains.
The Chinese are said to be entrenched 18km inside India-claimed lines on the strategic Depsang Plains.
A retired lieutenant general said India’s predicament was of its own making.
“It’s been evident since the beginning that the Chinese are working to establish a new status quo in Ladakh,” he told this newspaper.
“They agreed to disengage from some friction points on their terms. The Indian side played into their hands by agreeing to retreat from its positions to create buffer zones within Indian territory. This is what happens when the top leadership lives in denial by claiming that no intrusion has taken place.”
Four days after the June 15, 2020, clash at the Galwan Valley killed 20 Indian soldiers and four Chinese, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asserted that no one had occupied or was occupying Indian territory.
This allowed Beijing to dismiss the allegations of border transgressions and claim ownership of all the positions it held.