A high-powered government panel on China on Friday reviewed the latest developments in the eastern Ladakh theatre, with focus on charting out the course of future negotiations to restore status quo ante of mid-April along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC), officials familiar with the developments said.
The officials said the agenda for the next of round military talks between Indian and Chinese corps commander-ranked officers - expected to take place shortly - was discussed at the high-level meeting attended by defence minister Rajnath Singh, national security adviser Ajit Doval, chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat, army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane and other top officials.
The meeting took place a day after Singh told Parliament that no force in the world can stop the Indian Army from patrolling borders, signalling a resolve to regain access to several areas that are now difficult to reach due to actions by the Chinese army along the LAC.
While the date is yet to be finalised, the corps commander-ranked officers could meet in the next few days to take the military talks forward, the officials said. The situation in Ladakh remains tense after a series of recent maneuvers by the two armies in the Pangong Tso area.
Corps commander-ranked officers have so far met five times but failed to break the deadlock. The upcoming meeting will be their first meeting after the Indian Army swiftly moved and occupied key heights to prevent the People’s Liberation Army from grabbing Indian territory on the southern bank of Pangong Tso in a stealthy midnight move on August 29.
The Indian Army controls ridgeline positions on the southern bank of Pangong Tso that allow it to completely dominate the sector and keep an eye on Chinese military activity. The Indian Army has also taken control of key heights overlooking the PLA’s deployments on the Finger 4 ridgeline on the northern bank of Pangong Tso where rival soldiers are deployed barely a few hundred metres from each other.
“The recent developments have increased India’s bargaining power as there will definitely be an element of quid pro quo in the talks,” the officials said.
In tensions that began in mid-May, Indian and Chinese troops have come face-to-face at multiple points along the de-facto border, known as the LAC. In some of these areas, particularly the Finger Area and Depsang in Ladakh, Indian forces have been cut off from reaching areas they could previously patrol.
“No force in the world can stop Indian jawans from patrolling. If our soldiers have made sacrifices, it is for this reason that they have laid down their lives,” Singh told Rajya Sabha on Thursday.