Lingering Stand-off

MILITARY-LEVEL talks between India and China to resolve their current stand-off along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh have been deadlocked, for now. There are no fresh dates for the talks even though the two sides are busy preparing for a fresh round of talks. The last round of talks, the eighth since June 6, was held on November 7. Following this round there were reports of three-step disengagement plan proposed by China; this would oblige the two sides to withdraw tanks and artillery to depth areas followed by withdrawal of troops of both sides. Subsequently they are supposed to hold talks for Indian troops to withdraw from the Kailash Range and heights around Chushul that were occupied in August.

But there has been no progress on the plan since. There has also been criticism of the plan in India as its implementation is thought to require India to move back from what it claims as its own territory. The plan has thus found no favourable response from New Delhi.

Meanwhile, there are reports that China is reinforcing its positions in Ladakh. It is building border infrastructure, and laying fibre cables. It is also bringing additional troops to man the friction points. Reports also say that Beijing is establishing additional military infrastructure all along the LAC opposite Uttrakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

Other reports have said China is upgrading and installing radars along the entire stretch of the LAC from Ladakh to Sikkim region. If anything, it shows that China has no intention of withdrawing unless on its terms. It also doesn’t want to give up the over 1000 square kilometres of land it has occupied.

India wants China to go back to status quo ante as it existed in April but Beijing is in no mood to do so. On the contrary, the People’s Liberation Army has enhanced its military profile on the border by deploying thousands of its soldiers and equipment. In recent years China has reportedly more than doubled its total number of air bases, air defence positions and heliports near the Indian border. This has now become a high stakes war of nerves between the two countries.

A pragmatic way out to resolve the lingering stand-off is through negotiations, even if it takes time. With winter already having set in it will be in the interest of both the countries to reach an understanding that also holds on the ground. But this can only happen if Beijing approaches the dialogue seriously.

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