The 13th round of top-level military talks between India and China ended in a bitter stalemate on Sunday, with New Delhi blaming Beijing for not being “agreeable to its constructive suggestions” as well as failing to provide any “forward-looking proposals” in defusing the 17-month military confrontation in eastern Ladakh.
China’s Western Theatre Command spokesperson Senior Colonel Long Shaohua went a step ahead by virtually threatening that “instead of misjudging the situation, the Indian side should cherish the hard-won situation in China-India border areas”. This hardening of stand by the two sides means the troops will stay in Ladakh for a second winter.
The hardening of stand by the two sides, in effect, means that around 50,000 troops each deployed on the frontier are headed for a second successive winter in eastern Ladakh, where temperatures dip to minus 30 degrees Celsius along with acute oxygen deprivation.
The almost nine-hour meeting on Sunday, led by 14 Corps commander Lt-General P G K Menon and South Xinjiang military district chief of staff Major General Zhao Zhidan, “failed to move even an inch” towards completing the stalled troop disengagement at Patrolling Point-15 in the Hot Springs-Gogra-Kongka La area, said sources.
“Consequently, the much bigger problems at Charding Ninglung Nallah track junction at Demchok and Depsang Plains simply seem insurmountable as of now,” said a source.
The deadlock in talks led the two sides to issue separate unusually strong statements on Monday, unlike the joint ones in the past. “The Indian side emphasised resolution of the remaining areas would facilitate progress in bilateral relations. The Indian side, therefore, made constructive suggestions but the Chinese side was not agreeable and also could not provide any forward-looking proposals,” said the Indian statement.
This will reinforce concerns that India should not have squandered its major bargaining leverage by agreeing to vacate the Kailash Range heights, which Indian troops had occupied in a daring manoeuvre in end-August last year, in return for just the Pangong Tso disengagement pact