India and China established a hotline between their ground commanders in Kongra La in north Sikkim and Khamba Dzong in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, amidst the continuing military confrontation in eastern Ladakh since April-May last year.
The development comes a day after the 12th round of corps commander-level talks, led by 14 Corps commander Lt-General P G K Menon and the South Xinjiang Military District chief Major General Liu Lin, on the Chinese side of the Chushul-Moldo border meeting point in eastern Ladakh on Saturday.
There is as yet no official word on the outcome of the nine-hour long dialogue, though there are indications that India and China have inched closer to at least completing the stalled troop disengagement at patrolling points (PPs) 15, 17 and 17A in the Hot Springs-Gogra-Kongka La area in a phased manner. There is, however, no resolution in sight over the `friction’ in the strategically-located Depsang Bulge area and Demchok in eastern Ladakh, as was reported earlier.
In a statement on Sunday, the Indian Army said the new hotline was established to “further the spirit of trust and cordial relations” along the borders to coincide with the People’s Liberation Army Day.
This is the sixth such hotline between the ground commanders along the 3,488-km line of actual control. Now, there are two hotlines each in eastern Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim.
“The armed forces of the two countries have well-established mechanisms for communication at the level of ground commanders. These hotlines in various sectors go a long way in enhancing the same and maintaining peace and tranquility at the borders,” said the Army.
“The inauguration was attended by ground commanders of the respective armies and a message of friendship and harmony was exchanged through the hotline,” it added.
China has, however, been dragging its feet over establishing a top-level hotline like the DGMO one between India and Pakistan. The top-level hotline was first proposed in the bilateral Border Defence Cooperation Agreement signed in 2013 and then agreed to during PM Narendra Modi’s visit to China in 2015.