“Navigating Tensions: India Urges China’s Troop Withdrawal in Eastern Ladakh Talks”

India has once again called upon China to withdraw its forward-deployed troops and reinstate the patrolling rights of Indian soldiers in the Depsang Plains and Demchok regions of eastern Ladakh during recent military talks. These discussions, held at the Chushul-Moldo border meeting point on the Indian side of eastern Ladakh, were led by 14 Corps commander Lt-General Rashim Bali and the chief of the South Xinjiang Military District. The 19th round of corps commander-level talks, which is usually known for extending late into the night, concluded around 5:30 pm. However, official results from these discussions have not been released yet.

This meeting coincides with the upcoming BRICS summit scheduled for August 22-24 in South Africa, which is expected to be attended by both Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Additionally, President Xi is anticipated to visit India for the G20 summit on September 9 and 10.

While China’s response during the military dialogue remains undisclosed, a senior official contacted by TOI described the discussions as candid, friendly, and thorough. An official outcome is expected to be revealed after receiving political leadership’s clearance.

To de-escalate the prolonged military standoff in eastern Ladakh, now spanning four years, China’s agreement to the sequential process of disengagement, de-escalation, and de-induction is crucial. The restoration of patrolling rights for Indian soldiers is central to this process. The Indian delegation emphasized that the initial step towards de-escalation and de-induction hinges on resolving the long-pending troop disengagement in locations such as Depsang. This region is strategically important to Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) and Karakoram Pass in the north, as well as the Charding Ninglung Nallah (CNN) track junction in Demchok. These areas witness a substantial forward deployment of over 50,000 soldiers with heavy weaponry from both sides.

This latest round of corps commander-level talks follows a four-month hiatus since the 18th round on April 23, which yielded no breakthroughs. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China’s proposed solutions have been deemed unacceptable by India, resulting in a lack of progress.

The source highlighted that for overall bilateral relations to improve, China must restore border peace and stability. The PLA’s planned alteration of the status quo along the Line of Actual Control during April-May 2020 is a significant factor in this context.

Resolving the CNN track junction poses fewer challenges compared to the Depsang region, which presents a major hurdle. The PLA’s obstruction of Indian patrols from accessing around 18 km within the Depsang Bulge area—an area situated at an altitude of 16,000 feet and considered Indian territory—has complicated matters. Disengagement in other areas like Pangong Tso-Kailash range, Galwan Valley, and Gogra-Hot Springs has led to buffer zones ranging from 3 km to 10 km on Indian soil, restricting Indian troops’ access to 26 out of 65 patrolling points. These points span from the Karakoram Pass to Chumar in eastern Ladakh.

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