Ladakh Impasse

MILITARY commanders of India and China met on Sunday for the ninth round of talks to resolve stand-off along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh. In the preceding eight rounds of talks, the Indian Army has sought disengagement of troops by China from all points of friction but to no avail. The latest negotiations were held at Moldo border point on the Chinese side of the LAC. India has deployed some 50,000 troops in Ladakh to guard the border in sub-zero temperature. They are in a high state of combat readiness to repel fresh Chinese attempt to ingress. Recently in an interview with a television channel, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that India will not reduce its troop strength unless China initiates the process. Singh said India was developing its border infrastructure at a “very fast rate”. He, however, expressed confidence that a solution to the impasse could be found through talks.

In recent weeks, China has reportedly deployed tanks in front of Indian posts opposite Rezang La, Rechin La and Mukhosri locations. 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.

China has also defended construction of a village in Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh calling it a matter of sovereignty and insisting that it never recognised the “illegally established” Indian state. India has said it kept a constant watch on all developments with a bearing on the country’s security, and taken necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

India wants China to go back to status quo ante as it existed in April last year 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.

An eyeball to eyeball confrontation between the two countries has lingered ever since the forces of the two countries clashed at Galwan Valley in June-15-16 last year leading to the death of 20 Indian soldiers. A pragmatic way out to resolve the lingering stand-off is through negotiations, even if it takes time. With winter already half way through 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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