India and China have inched closer to complete the stalled troop disengagement at Gogra and Hot Springs in eastern Ladakh, though there was no headway in resolving the much more crucial Depsang standoff during the top-level military dialogue last week, said by sources.
Incomprehensible joint statement
A bland joint statement has been issued on Monday, without specifying any location or place, and stated that the two countries agreed during the 12th round of corps commander-level talks on July 31 to resolve “the remaining issues” in the 15-month long military confrontation in eastern Ladakh in an “expeditious manner” by existing agreements and protocols.
The nine-hour military dialogue was “constructive”
The nine-hour military dialogue was “constructive”, which “further enhanced mutual understanding”, with “a candid and in-depth exchange of views on resolution of remaining areas related to disengagement” along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, added the statement.
Sources, in turn, said, “some progress” has been made towards resolving the faceoff at patrolling points (PPs) 15, 17, and 17A in the Hot Springs-Gogra-Kongka La area in a phased manner.
Reaffirmation of the troops since last two years
The sources said, “There is cautious optimism because even a joint statement was not issued after the 11th round on April 9. But we have to wait and watch how it translates on the ground, especially since the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had agreed to disengage from Gogra and Hot Springs twice last year but eventually did not. Depsang and Demchok will take much longer to sort out.”
Deets of the joint statement
The joint statement said that the two countries agreed to keep “the momentum of dialogue and negotiations” going while continuing with their “effective efforts” in ensuring stability along the LAC and jointly maintaining peace and tranquility in the interim.
The corps commander-level meeting on Saturday, almost four months after the last round, came after external affairs minister S Jaishankar held an hour-long meeting with his counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organization conclave at Dushanbe in Tajikistan on July 14.
India appealing disengagement of PLA troops from Gogra and Hot Spring
During the military dialogue, India had raised the need to complete the stalled disengagement at Gogra and Hot Springs, while also calling for the “restoration of unhindered patrolling rights” in the strategically-located Depsang Bulge region, with the bottom-line being the restoration of the status quo as it existed in April 2020.
People’s Liberation Army(PLA) blocking the Indian troops
The PLA has been blocking Indian troop patrols in the ‘Bottleneck’ area of Depsang, which is 18-km inside what India perceives to be its territory, from going to their traditional PPs-10, 11, 11A, 12, and 13 in the region since April last year.
China wants the border row to be kept at an “appropriate place”
India has been repeatedly stressing that troop disengagement from the “remaining friction points”, followed by de-induction and the consequent de-escalation, is critical for improvement in bilateral ties.
But China wants the border row to be kept at an “appropriate place”, without it impinging on the overall ties.