New Delhi: India will insist on a full and complete de-escalation of eastern Ladakh at the meeting of India-China military commanders on Monday, pushing for a proposal which sequences first the withdrawal of Chinese troops from the larger area, then the northern bank of Pangong Tso and last of all from the latest flashpoint — the southern bank.
India has learned that this plan, which is in line with what India put forward at the last meeting on September 22, also defines India’s position at the talks. “This is like a red line for us. We cannot shift much from this because China has gone back on commitments made in the past,” said a source familiar with the details
The Indian position, however, runs contradictory to what China has proposed. As per Beijing’s proposed sequence, as articulated at the last meeting, any process must begin with the withdrawal of Indian troops from areas it moved into on the southern bank of the Pangong Tso. This was rejected by the Indian side on the grounds that its Army was only responding to the Chinese provocations.
India, sources said, wanted to press on acceptance of a broader principle that troops must be withdrawn in the same order and sequence as they were deployed. By that logic, China will have to act first because it initiated the aggressive maneuvers in April.
Further, the Chinese tendency to break its own disengagement code — in Galwan and then in the Pangong Tso — has lowered trust levels on the Indian side. As a result, sources said, the military was unwilling to take the slightest of risk on China’s promises
On the ground, it’s believed that China has not increased deployments in its forward areas since the last round of talks, which is in tune with what both sides had agreed to. However, India has no clarity on whether China has added more troops in the rear.
The Indian side, meanwhile, is now fully geared up for the winter. A mammoth exercise to store water and stock up food is now largely completed. China too has made its arrangements, setting up hospitals and helipads along with massive digging to deploy long-range weapons.
Since the meeting of the two foreign ministers in Moscow last month, which set up these military-level conversations, India has included the joint secretary dealing with China from the Ministry of External Affairs in its delegation, while Beijing is believed to have stepped up the presence of its political commissars. However, China’s negotiating line has remained quite inflexible, sources said.