Talks with China to reduce friction in the sensitive eastern Ladakh theatre may resume soon, with the eighth round of military dialogue between the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) expected to take place this week, officials familiar with the ongoing border row said on Tuesday.
There are indications that the dialogue could take place along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Chushul sector on November 6, the officials said.
Indian and Chinese military commanders met for the seventh time on October 12, with the Indian side demanding comprehensive disengagement at all flashpoints and restoration of status quo ante of early April during the talks. The two sides agreed to continue with the dialogue process to arrive at a mutually-acceptable solution for early disengagement in the eastern Ladakh theatre.
The eighth round of talks will be led for the first time by the new commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps, Lieutenant General PGK Menon.
Both armies are prepared for a long haul in the Ladakh sector and are likely to hold forward positions along the LAC through the harsh winter months. India has made vigorous attempts to provide logistics support to its forward deployed soldiers, including the supply of specialised winter clothing sourced from the United States, the officials said. India has imported more than 15,000 sets of extended cold weather clothing system (ECWCS) from the US, with the emergency supply made by activating the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Association (LEMOA), the officials said.
India signed the LEMOA, the first of the three foundational agreements proposed by Washington to deepen bilateral military cooperation, with the US in August 2016.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh had on October 28 said that talks with China for peaceful resolution of the border crisis would continue even as Indian troops are “standing firm” in forward areas. Addressing the army’s top leadership during the army commanders’ conference last month, Singh said that soldiers would be equipped with best weapons and gear to carry out their duties.
The border row is in its sixth month and efforts to disengage and de-escalate have yielded no results.
The latest round of military talks comes at a time when China is closely tracking the Malabar exercise, kicked off by the navies of India, United States, Japan and Australia in the Bay of Bengal on Tuesday amid Chinese sabre-rattling in the Indo-Pacific region. The 24th edition of the Malabar exercise is being held in two phases – the first phase in the Bay of Bengal from November 3 to 6 and the second phase to be held off India’s west coast in mid-November.
China has been wary of the Quadrilateral security dialogue or Quad that was revived in late 2017 by India, the US, Australia and Japan, and these suspicions have increased since the four countries upgraded the forum to the ministerial level last year.