Lingering Deadlock

INDIA and China engaged in their 14th round of Corps Commander-level talks on Wednesday. The Indian delegation was led for the first time by Lt. Gen. Anindya Sengupta, who recently took over as the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Leh-based 14 Corps. He was also part of the talks in the previous round which ended in a stalemate. The two sides are looking at a possible agreement for disengagement from Hot Springs as part of the comprehensive disengagement and de-escalation efforts in eastern Ladakh. The stand-off is now over 20-month-long and the successive efforts to end it have met a modest success. Last year, the two countries had disengaged from the friction point at Pangong Tso lake.

There are, however, three other major friction points that will need to be sorted out now. There has so far been no progress in the dialogue over the restoration of the status quo ante in these areas. But China has so far refused to vacate the captured area and wants to cement the status quo.  India, on the other hand, has been insisting on a comprehensive disengagement and de-escalation of the situation.

The stand-off has thus continued. And this is not a good evolving security situation for India. And the country’s security brass is aware of this. But there is so far little that New Delhi can do about it. In the recent past, China has tried to expand the conflict along the LAC. As time goes by, the differences between the two countries are becoming irreconcilable.

India wants China to go back to status quo ante as it existed in April 2020 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 airbases, air defense 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, 2020 leading to the death of 20 Indian soldiers and four Chinese personnel. A pragmatic way out to resolve the lingering stand-off is through negotiations, even if it takes time. But this depends on how soon, or if at all, China would be willing to withdraw from the remaining friction points at Hot Springs, Demchok and Depsang. Here’s hoping that China sees the rationale of better relations with India and to this end takes concrete steps to calm the Line of Actual Control.

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