Just ahead of the Shangai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Defence Ministers meeting in the national capital, India and China on April 23 held the 18th round of Corps Commander talks at Moldo on the Chinese side in eastern Ladakh in the continuing efforts to resolve the stand-off ongoing since May 2020.
Defence sources confirmed that talks began on April 23 morning at Moldo and they were still underway at the time of going to print. The focus remains on disengagement from Demchok and Depsang Plains.
The Indian side at the talks was led by Lieutenant General Rashim Bali, who recently took over as the Leh-based 14 Corps Commander.
Later this week, India is set to host the SCO Defence Ministers meeting in which the Chinese Defence Minister is set to take part, as reported by The Hindu earlier. In addition, later this year, India will host both the SCO and G20 summits. Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit India at least once, if not on both occasions.
Addressing the Army Commanders Conference last week, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had said that ongoing talks for peaceful resolution of the stand-off in eastern Ladakh will continue, and disengagement and de-escalation is the best way forward.
Since the stand-off began in May 2020, the two sides have so far held 17 rounds of talks with disengagement undertaken from both sides of Pangong Tso in February 2021, from Patrolling Point (PP) 17 in the Gogra-Hot Springs area in August, and PP15 in early November, in addition to Galwan in 2020 after the violent clash. While India maintains that friction points at Demchok and Depsang remain, China has refused to accept this, terming them as legacy issues predating the 2020 stand-off.
In the past, Army Chief General Manoj Pande had termed the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as “stable but unpredictable” while stating that five out of the seven friction points had been resolved and the focus was now on the remaining two points.
Over 50,000 troops, and significant heavy equipment, continue to be deployed on both sides close to the LAC. In the last three years, China has also undertaken massive construction of infrastructure, habitat and support structures to maintain the troops close to the LAC, altering the ground status.
India has constantly stated that the relationship cannot go back to normal as long as the situation along the stand-off continues, and has repeatedly called for restoration of status quo ante along the LAC.