India and China close to Gogra resolution

Military commanders of India and China had a constructive round of talks to ease border tensions in eastern Ladakh, with a resolution of the standoff at Patrolling Point 17A likely, in what would be another step towards disengagement of troops.

According to defence establishment insiders, the talks on Saturday, which were the shortest between the two corps commanders, focused on resolution at Gogra heights where soldiers have been in a standoff since May last year. The contentious PP 17A, where the PLA moved in over 1,500 troops last year to what India perceives as its territory, could be the third area after Galwan valley and Pangong Tso where troops from both sides will withdraw from forward positions.

A previous round of disengagement at Gogra took place after the Galwan valley clash last year but the PLA retained a smaller detachment of troops at the Line of Actual Control, a deployment mirrored by the Indian Army. The talks were also directed at disengagement at Patrolling Point 15 at Hot Springs, with expectations of progress there as well.

While options for disengagement were discussed, a final decision will be taken by the political leadership at both sides. A speedy disengagement at Gogra seems to be achievable, insiders said.

In its official statement after the talks, the Indian Army said the two sides had a “candid and in-depth exchange of views on resolution of remaining areas related to disengagement along the Line of Actual Control in the western sector of India-China border areas”.

The talks were described as constructive, which have led to ‘further enhanced mutual understanding’. “They agreed to resolve remaining issues in an expeditious manner in accordance with the existing agreements and protocols and maintain the momentum of dialogue and negotiations,” the statement read. The two sides also resolved to jointly maintain peace along LAC.

The PLA last year occupied the Finger Area at Pangong Tso, moved troops into the Galwan valley and deployed soldiers and armoured vehicles at Hot Springs and Gogra. Out of these areas, only Pangong Tso had been a recurring border irritant. The situation at Depsang plains, north to the other friction points, is being dealt with separately. A minor issue also exists at the Charding Nalla at Demchok in the south over two tents pitched by so-called civilians on disputed territory since 2018.

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