Eastern Ladakh row: China plays hardball on eve of diplomatic talks

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 23

India and China are likely to hold another round of diplomatic talks this week amidst the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs playing hardball on the issue of complete disengagement from all border areas in eastern Ladakh.

China’s military deployment along the western section of the China-India border is a “normal defense arrangement” aiming at preventing and responding to encroachment and threats on China’s territory, said the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian.

The Global Times linked it to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar recent statement that China’s military deployment along the border with India as well as uncertainty over whether it will fulfill its promise on troop reduction is “a challenge” for bilateral ties.

Sources here said the Indian side for the meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) will focus on broad principles to bring down tensions between the armies in eastern Ladakh.

In an indication of the stalemate between the two sides, the WMCC has not met for over three months over the issue of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) disengagement in Gogra, Hot Springs, Demchok and Depsang Plains. On the contrary, reports suggest that PLA has converted temporary ammunition dumps, helipads and surface-to-air missile positions into permanent positions.

In case, there is any indication at the WMCC about Chinese intentions for disengagement and lowering of troop strength, the 12th meeting of Corps Commanders will be sequenced.

Though the two sides disengaged from the North and South banks of Pangong lake in February, a similar process in the remaining areas is yet to be agreed upon.

 Army Chief Gen MM Naravane has ruled out lowering of troop strength from an estimated 50,000-60,000 unless there is complete disengagement from all the friction points in eastern Ladakh.

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