Indian, Chinese armies identify expeditious and phased de-escalation as priority: Sources

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NEW DELHI, July 1 (PTI): Indian and Chinese armies have emphasised the need for an “expeditious, phased and step wise” de-escalation as a “priority” to end the seven-week bitter standoff in eastern Ladakh, during a nearly 12-hour corps commander-level meeting on Tuesday, government sources said.

This, the sources said, is in sync with the agreement between External Affairs Ministers S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in their telephonic talks on June 17 that the overall situation would be handled in a responsible manner. They said the process of disengagement along the Line of Actual Control(LAC) is “complex”, and in such a context, speculative and unsubstantiated reports need to be avoided.

The sources said the discussions reflected the commitment of the two sides to reduce tensions along the LAC and more meetings are expected, both at military and diplomatic levels, to arrive at a “mutually agreeable solution”.

At Tuesday’s dialogue, the two sides also resolved to sincerely implement the disengagement understanding reached in the first corps commander-level talks on June 6, they said. The talks took place on the Indian side of the LAC in Chushul sector in eastern Ladakh. The meeting began at 11 AM and continued for nearly 12 hours, the sources said.

The Indian delegation at the meeting was headed by 14 Corps Commander Lt Gen Harinder Singh while the Chinese side was led by the Commander of the Tibet Military District Major General Liu Lin.

“Both sides have emphasised the need for an expeditious, phased and step wise de-escalation as a priority,” said a source. It was the third senior military commander level engagement to discuss issues related to disengagement at the faceoff sites along the LAC and de-escalation from the border areas.

“The meeting on Tuesday was long and held in a businesslike manner keeping in view the COVID-19 protocols. The discussions reflected the commitment of both sides to reduce the tensions along the LAC,” the source said.

It further said: “More meetings are expected both at the military and at the diplomatic level, in future, to arrive at mutually agreeable solution and to ensure peace and tranquility along the LAC as per bilateral agreements and protocols.”

In the previous two rounds of talks, the Indian side demanded immediate withdrawal of Chinese troops from various areas in the region. The Indian and Chinese armies are locked in a bitter standoff in multiple locations in eastern Ladakh for the last seven weeks, and the tension escalated manifold after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a violent clash in Galwan Valley on June 15. The Chinese side also suffered casualties but it is yet to give out the details.

In the talks on June 22, the two sides arrived at a “mutual consensus” to “disengage” from all the friction points in eastern Ladakh. Following the Galwan Valley incident, the government has given the armed forces “full freedom” to give a “befitting” response to any Chinese misadventure along the LAC, the 3,500-km de-facto border.

The Army has sent thousands of additional troops to forward locations along the border in the last two weeks. The IAF has also moved air defence systems as well as a sizeable number of its frontline combat jets and attack helicopters to several key air bases. The first round of the Lt General talks were held on June 6 during which both sides finalised an agreement to disengage gradually from all the standoff points beginning with Galwan Valley.

However, the situation deteriorated following the Galwan Valley clashes as the two sides significantly bolstered their deployments in most areas along the LAC. The situation in eastern Ladakh deteriorated after around 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers were engaged in a violent face-off on May 5 and 6. The incident in Pangong Tso was followed by a similar incident in north Sikkim on May 9.

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