India, China Hope Next Talks Would Ease Border Tensions

New Delhi- Ahead of another round of high-level military talks with China, India on Thursday said it would like to see disengagement at remaining friction points in eastern Ladakh that could lead to restoration of peace and tranquillity along the frontier and provide conditions for progress of overall bilateral ties.

The 11th round of Corps Commander talks is scheduled to start at 10:30 AM on Friday at the Chushul border point on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, sources in the security establishment said.

The sources said outstanding problems including in Depsang, Hot Springs and Gogra will be taken up at the talks by the Indian side.

The 10th round of military parleys took place on February 20, two days after the armies of the two countries concluded withdrawal of troops and weapons from North and South banks of Pangong lake areas. The talks lasted for around 16 hours.

At a media briefing, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi underlined the need for disengagement in remaining areas in eastern Ladakh.

"We would like to see disengagement in the remaining areas which would lead to de-escalation in eastern Ladakh and that would hopefully lead to restoration of peace and tranquillity and provide conditions for progress of our overall bilateral relationship," he said.

At the last round of military talks, both sides discussed ways to take forward the disengagement process in Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang with a larger aim to bring down tensions in the region.

The Indian delegation at Friday's talks is to be led by Lt Gen PGK Menon, the Commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps.

China, meanwhile, said it believed that India's proposal for restoration of the status quo of April 2020 at eastern Ladakh should be discussed in meetings between the two countries.

It also said there is no delay in holding talks with India to discuss the disengagement of troops from the remaining friction points in eastern Ladakh.

At a media briefing in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian denied any delay in holding of the 11th round of talks. His response came when pointed out that it is going to be about two months since the first disengagement took place and a month since the 10th round of talks on the disengagement of troops.

"There is no delayed meeting as you cited. I want to stress that the merits of the situation at the India-China border are very clear and the responsibility does not rest with the Chinese side," Zhao said.

"We hope the Indian side will work with China to follow through the important consensus of our two state leaders, abide by relevant agreements and treaties to de-escalate the tension at the border," he said.

About India's stand that the status quo of April 2020 should be restored and whether China would consider such a proposal, Zhao said, "for the proposal, you mentioned I believe it should be talked in the meetings and I already made clear my position on the border issue just now."

The border standoff between the armies of India and China erupted on May 5 last following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas and both sides gradually enhanced their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry.

As a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides completed withdrawal of troops and weapons from the North and South banks of Pangong lake in February in line with an agreement on disengagement.

India has been insisting that resolution of outstanding issues including in Depsang, Hot Springs and Gogra is essential for overall ties between the two countries.

Late last month, Army Chief Gen MM Naravane said the threat to India has only "abated" following the disengagement in Pangong lake areas but it has not gone away altogether.

He also said that patrolling has not resumed in the region as tensions were still running high and there were always chances of face-offs and inadvertent escalation of the situation when it starts.

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