Eastern Ladakh row: Indian, Chinese diplomats to hold virtual talks to resolve standoff

Senior diplomats of India and China will soon hold a video conference and make an attempt to break the deadlock in talks between the military commanders of the two sides to resolve the 14-month-long stand-off along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh.

India’s delegation for the video-conference will be led by Naveen Srivastava, the Additional Secretary at the East Asia Division of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). Hong Liang, the Director General of the Boundary and Ocean Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Chinese Government, will lead the delegation of the communist country.

A source in New Delhi said that India would convey to China that early completion of disengagement or withdrawal of front-line troops from all the face-off points along the LAC could pave the way for both sides to consider de-escalation or thinning out forces in the respective “depth areas” on both sides of the de facto boundary.

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The video conference is going to be the 22nd round of consultation within the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC), which the two nations set up in 2012 as an institutional mechanism to deal with flashpoints along the disputed boundary between the neighbouring nations. The two sides activated the mechanism to resolve the stand-off along the LAC exactly a year ago with a similar video conference on June 24, 2020. The diplomats of the two nations have since held seven such virtual consultations and the next one would be the eighth between them.

The Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) last month withdrew front-line troops from the northern and the southern banks of Pangong Tso. The mutual disengagement from both banks of the lake raised hope for an early end to the military stand-off, which had started in late April and early May last year and taken the bilateral relations to a new low over the past few months. After the two sides completed withdrawal of troops from Pangong Tso areas, the senior commanders of the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA had a meeting on February 20 last and started a discussion on disengagement from other face-off points along the LAC, like Hot Springs, Depsang and Gogra Post.

The military commanders, however, could not make any headway over the past four months. They last met on April 9 and held the 11th round of consultation since the stand-off started. 

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