India and China discussed troop disengagement in the Depsang-Daulat Beg Oldie sector as well as a further pullback of Chinese soldiers in the Pangong Tso and Hot Springs areas during talks between the rival corps commanders in eastern Ladakh on Tuesday.
There was no official word on the outcome of the fourth rounds of talks between 14 Corps commander Lt-General Harinder Singh and South Xinjiang Military District chief Major General Liu Lin, which kicked off at 11.30am and continued till late in the night on the Indian side of the Chushul-Moldo border personnel meeting point.
Defence sources, however, acknowledged that Phase-II of the de-escalation process will be much tougher to finalize since the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is hotly disputed between the two sides in the Depsang Plains and Panong Tso areas.
The LAC is relatively less contested in Galwan Valley, Hot Springs and Gogra, where bulk of the rival troops have mutually pulled back by 1 to 2.5 km each to create temporary no-patrolling zones under Phase-I of the de-escalation plan decided in the last meeting between the corps commanders on June 30.
Sources said India during the meeting on Tuesday pressed for restoration of status quo as it existed before People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers intruded into eastern Ladakh at multiple locations in a well-planned operation in early-May.
India also asked for a time-bound roadmap for de-induction of the around 30,000 troops each amassed by the two sides, along with artillery guns, tanks and other heavy weaponry, in the “depth areas” along the 1,597-km long frontier in eastern Ladakh. “The two armies should eventually move their additional forces back to their permanent locations,” said a source.
In the interim, India wants PLA troops to pull back eastwards by 8-km to their posts and bases beyond `Finger-8’ (mountainous spur), where the LAC runs north to south, on the north bank of Pangong Tso.
As reported by TOI earlier, Chinese soldiers have pulled back from the `base’ of `Finger-4’ eastwards towards ‘Finger-5’ but are yet to fully vacate the ridgeline that dominates the area.
Indian soldiers, in turn, have pulled back westwards towards their Dhan Singh Thapa post between `Finger-2’ and `Finger-3’ in consonance with the plan to disengage from the face-off site at `Finger-4’.
Lt-Gen Singh also raised the blocking of Indian soldiers to their “Patrolling Points” 10, 11, 12 and 13 in the Depsang Plains area, a strategically-located table-top plateau to the north of Galwan, by PLA troops after they intruded deep into what India considers its territory. “It was reiterated that the usual norm should be restored about not blocking each other’s patrols there,” said the source.