NEW DELHI: The fifth round of corps commander-level talks between India and China will be held next week to take forward the stalled disengagement process at Pangong Tso and Gogra-Hot Springs as well as discuss the restoration of status quo in the strategically-located Depsang Plains region in eastern Ladakh.
Sources on Sunday said the rival commanders on the ground were in touch over the hotline to clarify matters over the stalled disengagement process before the next round of corps commander-level talks is held in the “second half” of next week.
The north bank of Pangong Tso (Tso means lake) remains the main problem. PLA troops have so far only moved back from the face-off site at the ‘base’ of ‘Finger-4’ to ‘Finger-5’ (mountainous spurs), without also fully vacating the ridge-line that dominates the area.
PLA has since early-May built scores of fortifications and gun positions after occupying the 8-km stretch from ‘Finger-4’ to ‘Finger-8’, where Indian says the LAC runs north to south, as was earlier reported by TOI.
Army’s Northern Command chief Lt-General Y K Joshi, talking to television channels on Sunday, said “all efforts” were underway to restore status quo, as it existed before mid-April along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and Indian troops would remain forward deployed till it was achieved.
The “complex and intricate” process of disengagement, initiated after four rounds of military talks, would be verified by the local commanders to ensure its “veracity and correctness” on the ground, he said.
Refusing to give a timeframe for the process, Lt-Gen Joshi said, “I believe the negotiations and process of this engagement and the commitment of both sides to adhere to the laid down methodology would dictate the timeline of the standoff.”
“There are certain factors though such as the country’s territorial integrity that are not negotiable. While we are investing sincerely in this ongoing endeavour to bring about peace along the border, we also remain prepared at all times for any eventuality,” he added.
As earlier reported by TOI, the initial disengagement at two of the four face-off sites on Indian territory is yet to take place, with the subsequent de-escalation and eventual de-induction of the over 30,000 troops and heavy weaponry amassed in the “depth areas” by the two armies along the LAC still figuring nowhere on the horizon.
Consequently, the Indian Army has stepped-up its “advance winter stocking” of rations and supplies for forward areas in eastern Ladakh, which has triple the number of troops usually deployed in the super high-altitude region.
Troop disengagement has been fully completed only at “Patrolling Point-14 (PP-14)” in Galwan Valley, the site of the June 15 skirmish, and PP-15 in Hot Springs. But there are still some rival troops in close proximity to each other at PP-17A at Gogra, while Pangong Tso remains deadlocked.
The Depsang Plains, a table-top plateau to the north of Galwan, is also a major concern. The PLA continues to block Indian soldiers from going to their traditional PPs-10, 11, 12 and 13 after intruding deep into what India considers its territory there. India is pushing for the “old norm” of not blocking each other’s patrols to be restored in the Depsang area.


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