India has firmly told China that it will not move back its troops from its present military position north of the Pangong Tso Lake in eastern Ladakh.
China, during the fifth round of talks on August 2, had asked India to move back from the crucial position to break the deadlock in the disengagement process along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The disengagement process has been stalled and differences have emerged between India and China on the status and claims even as military commanders of the two sides continue discussions on disengagement in eastern Ladakh.
India has been insisting that China must withdraw its forces from areas between Finger-4 and 8. The mountain spurs jutting into the lake are referred to as ‘Fingers’ in military parlance.
At the fifth Corps Commander-level meeting at Moldo on Sunday which lasted for 10 hours, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China was adamant about not moving back from its position at Finger-4.
Instead, Beijing asked New Delhi to pull back its troops further from the area.
As part of the disengagement process, a 3-km buffer zone between troops of either side had been established already at Finger-4.
The meeting made clear China’s non-committal for a complete disengagement at the border and the talks remained unsatisfactory with India directing its armed forces to prepare for a long haul.
At a review meeting on Tuesday afternoon in the South Block over the fifth round of Corps Commander level talks, it was decided that there was no question of diluting India’s stand.
The members of the China Study Group along with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had met to discuss the results.
It was also discussed that Beijing has started troop and material build-up in depth areas across the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control (LAC).
India found that the Chinese side has started the build-up in three sectors of the LAC — western (Ladakh), middle (Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh) and eastern (Sikkim, Arunachal).
Intelligence agencies also alerted that China has also mobilised soldiers near Uttarakhand’s Lipulekh Pass, a tri-junction between India, Nepal and China situated atop the Kalapani Valley.
India had urged China to remove forces from Pangong Lake and Gogra where disengagement has not taken place.
At Pangong Lake, China has strengthened their positions between Finger-5 and 8, and India is to take up this move very strongly.
The PLA has refused to pull back eastwards from the 8-km stretch it has occupied from Finger-4 to Finger-8 by building scores of new fortifications there since early May.
The Chinese troops are also in Depsang which continues to block Indian soldiers from going to their traditional patrolling in the region.
The Depsang Plains, a table-top plateau to the north of Galwan, remains a major hotspot due to its strategic location providing access to the logistical hub and airstrip at Daulat Beg Oldie and the critical Karakoram Pass in the north.
Since the PLA troops are not moving back as per consensus, the Indian Army has kicked off the massive logistical exercise for advance winter stocking with rations, specialised clothing, prefabricated shelters, Arctic tents and other equipment to maintain.
India has deployed over 35,000 troops in Ladakh.
China is not complying with the roadmap for a complete pullback that was drawn out during the Corps Commander level meet on July 14.
Till now two rounds of deliberations have taken at Moldo (China) and two in Chushul (India).
The countries are locked in a three-month-long stand-off at multiple points, hitherto unprecedented along the border.
China had changed the status quo on the LAC at various places, moving inside the Indian territories. India has objected to it and is taking up the matter with China at all levels.
The troop disengagement happened only at patrolling point-14 in Galwan Valley, the site of the June 15 clashes, and patrolling point-15 in Hot Springs.
The first Corps Commander-level flag meeting was held on June 6. However, a violent face-off incident took place between the two sides on June 15, in Galwan valley at the LAC resulting in casualties on both sides.
Then a second Corps Commander-level meeting took place on June 22 to discuss modalities of de-escalation process.
The third meeting took place on June 30 and it went on for around 12 hours. During the meeting, all contentious areas of stand-off were discussed to stabilise the situation.
China had agreed to move back in Pangong Tso but did not. India claims the Line of Actual Control at Finger 8 and the Chinese are sitting between Finger 4 and Finger 5. Similarly, differences exist in Depsang and Demchok.
The fourth meeting took place on July 14 where India and China military delegates held deliberations about disengagement of troops and materials at the borders for 15 long hours. Indian delegates asked Chinese People’s Liberation Army troops to completely withdraw from Pangong Lake and Depsang.