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LAC: Sino-Indian talks reach critical patrol point 14

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New Delhi: Military talks took place at the critical Galwan valley in eastern Ladakh even though concerns remain about the massive build up of tanks, artillery and armoured personnel carriers by the PLA in the region.

The division commander-level talks were held at Patrol Point 14, which had emerged as a hot spot after Chinese troops moved ahead of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Galwan region.

The spot was of particular concern as any further incursion could impact the safety of the critical Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie road that supplies troops posted in Sub Sector North and close to the Karakoram pass.

India has made it clear that the troops— in excess of 6,000—that were brought in by PLA from other regions need to be pulled back before the situation can be de-escalated.

China on Wednesday said that a “positive consensus” has been reached to ease the situation along the border but did not go into details of the limited disengagement that has been undertaken over the past few days.

“Recently, the diplomatic and military channels of China and India held effective communication on the situation along the border and reached positive consensus… the two sides are following this consensus to take actions to ease the situation along the borders,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, without going into details.

India has not made any official statement about the disengagement but government officials have shared details about thinning of troops at Patrol Points 14, 15 and 17 at Galwan and Gogra.

Sources said that a major general level meeting took place in eastern Ladakh between the two sides, which would be followed by a series of conferences between brigadier and colonel-level officers to chalk out a disengagement plan.

The meeting lasted over three hours as both sides laid out points of contention and agreed to work on them. While limited disengagement has taken place at three incursion points in the Galwan and Gogra region, there has been no move yet to pull back troops that the PLA had moved close to the border, including artillery, rocket and armoured units.

This, sources said, will be taken up strongly as India is clear that PLA’s forward deployed troops—at least two enhanced brigades have been moved ahead—need to pull back.

While the Chinese build up took place in early May, India rushed in troops to mirror the deployments and has currently twice the number of soldiers usually deployed in eastern Ladakh.

Unless the Chinese forces are moved back, Indian formations will remain in place, increasing the chances of sudden escalation in case of local incidents. The Finger Area along the Pangong Tso lake still remains a major cause for concern as the PLA has constructed defences that have effectively cut off an over 50 sq km area that Indian troops used to patrol in the past.

These defences have come up at Finger 4, which India considers as its own territory and has cut off access to the area till Finger 8, until which soldiers carried out foot patrols in the past.

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