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'No Breakthrough Likely': Amid Failing Hopes of Thaw, 7th India-China Military Talks Promise an 8th Round

Image for representation. (PTI)

Image for representation. (PTI)

The seventh Corps Commander meet will be Lt Gen Harinder Singh's last. He moves to Dehradun on October 14 as the Commandant of the Indian Military Academy. His successor Lt Gen PGK Menon is part of Monday's meeting.

It will be a sunny four degree Celsius day in Chushul when the Indian and Chinese Corps Commanders meet yet again for the seventh time. The drill, the agenda and the outcome are expected to remain the same. But there is a growing certainty in South Block that that there could be a limited escalation on the ground within a month.

“It is difficult to say what the Chinese will do. But they will not sit quietly in South Bank. They are rattled after Indian troops occupied seven strategic heights. The PLA didn’t expect this. Their entire focus and attempt during talks is to get the Indians to step back from these heights," said a top ranking official in the know of things.

South Bank of the Pangong Tso was China’s sole focus during the 14-hour-long sixth Corps Commander meet held on September 21. China’s precondition to a commitment on disengagement is that India vacate the seven strategic heights the Army occupied on the intervening night of August 29 and 30. China considers this to be a violation of the LAC but India says they are well within their line.

“India has rejected this precondition. We have said it’s all or nothing. Either you talk about North Bank and Depsang as well or don’t talk at all," said a senior Army Officer.

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No breakthrough is expected from this round of talks either since both sides are adamant and have dug in their heels. It’s not just the American NSA Robert O’Brien who feels that talks with China will not help. Top ranking officials at South Block are of the same view.

“We can continue to talk. But the situation at the LAC will not get resolved. The Chinese will not go back. They have made their intent very clear by invoking the 1959 claim line."

The seventh Corps Commander meet will be Lt Gen Harinder Singh’s last. He moves to Dehradun on October 14 as the Commandant of the Indian Military Academy. His successor Lt Gen PGK Menon is part of Monday’s meeting.

India will once again insist on free and unhindered access to the 15 Patrolling Points that china has currently blocked in Eastern Ladakh. Simple disengagement will not do, India will insist on a time bound de-escalation and de-induction. It’s not happening anytime soon.

In an unusual move, India and China had issued a joint statement after the sixth Corps Commander meet where they had “agreed not to send in more troops to the frontline, refrain from unilaterally changing the situation on the ground and avoid taking any action that may complicate the situation."

The spirit of the statement has largely held on the ground. But there have been reports of PLA tanks and infantry coming dangerously close to an Indian position in one friction spot last week.

Sixty thousand PLA soldiers and 50,000 Indian troops are face-to-face in Eastern Ladakh as temperatures plunge into sub-zero territory. There is no hope for a thaw after the seventh round of military talks, but we will definitely have is a commitment to an eighth round.

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