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Recently, in second week of October, the 13th round of India China talks took an acrimonious turn which had begun between military commanders at Moldo on Chinese side of LAC. The process starting in June last year to try and de-escalate tensions to disengage troop to agree to dismantle infrastructure that has been built close to the LAC by China and to reduce the number of soldiers on both sides from the points of contention which by any estimate are four or five times the normal amounts.
The Indian readout from those talks said very clearly that the situation has been caused by China’s attempts to alter the status quo. China in fact should take appropriate steps now to restore peace at LAC. India made constructive proposals to the Chinese sides, but the Chinese side was “not agreeable” to them and also could not provide any forward looking proposals in return. The meeting thus did not result in the resolution of the remaining areas.
Now the Chinese military statement that was accompanied by some tough rhetoric from state aligned media, said that India had in fact made unreasonable and unrealistic demands. It is the strongest language India has seen so far.
The language of the official statements is clearly stronger, more accusatory than in the past. Both sides are blaming each other for the failure of the talks unlike the previous time when the joint statement was issued on both sides. It doesn’t actually conclude by speaking about continuing dialogue, simply saying they will maintain communication.
What is the point of contention?
The 13th round really came amidst report of more flash points between the two countries. The points of contentions are -
The first was a clash at Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang area in the Yangtze area that resulted in Indian forces actually taking Chinese soldiers captive before releasing them.
The second clash point is a bridge in Uttarakhand’s Barahoti where Chinese soldiers came in, broke infrastructure, stayed for several hours before then leaving.
The third was China’s objections to visit by Vice president Venkaiah Naidu to Arunachal Pradesh. China claimed that this was a disputed area and then ministry of external affairs in Delhi came back with a very strong statement asserting that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral and inalienable part of India.
What has been settled in previous 12 rounds of talks?
Chinese military build-up was first reported in Delhi in mid of April 2020. So now after 18 months later, talks between the two sides have resulted in some disengagement at north and south of Pangong Lake, at Galwan valley, in Gogra and some buffer zones have been set up. At some of these points, the reports say that China has actually pushed India into even more backward position.
This time in 13th round, they were discussing the contentious and strategically critical patrol point 15, i.e. PP15 which is at hot springs. The lack of movement here could hold up entire disengagement process. So, now another round of talks needs to be held to resolve this issue.
The failure of 13th round of talks indicate that armies on both the sides will have to spend the winter in freezing and very difficult conditions at LAC.
Impact of failure of 13th round of talks on Indian Government-
Failure of talks means that Delhi has failed to convince Beijing to revert to their old positions and give up their newly occupied positions by any diplomatic means.
Clearly, it began with Chinese aggression and Chinese incursions at LAC and then killing of 20 Indian soldiers in Galwan Valley in June 2020 but experts are saying that government needs to clarify its positions, it needs to come clean on a number of issues despite the fact that everyone knows that this is clearly the Chinese aggression.
In 2020, a very difficult maneuver claimed as major leverage gained army at the time. Indian troops had managed to claim heights in the Kailash ranges including Rezang La and Rechin La in south of Pangong lake. Now, government of India must explain that why India withdrew its troops in initial round of talks this February on disengagement and gave away this leverage point at the beginning of the process rather than waiting for China to show good faith on pulling out other areas as well.
Also, the military and the government have first either recanted or denied stories and later confirmed them. For example- the Galwan valley clash was just said to be the clash of misunderstanding, but now it is clear that they have occupied territory. In June 2020, it was said that China has vacated PP15 at hot springs and also underway to pull out troops from PP17 called Gogra post. But actually Gogra post is vacated after 12th round of commander talks in August 2021.
World is looking at India now
The China India dispute will have major effect on China-USA relations as India will have chose one side now departing from its previous theory of non-alignment. India has declined to comment on Chinese to send nearly 150 planes over Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. So, India’s actions and statements are closely being watched by the world as they will decide the new polarization of the world. Also, military engagements are increasing in Indo-Pacific Ocean by AUKUS group which are more or less results of India-China border clash.