NEW DELHI: There are no expectations of a concrete breakthrough in actual troop de-escalation in eastern Ladakh during the seventh round of top-level military talks with China on Monday, which is also likely to see diplomatic representation from Beijing for the first time.
The possible presence of a senior foreign ministry official in the Chinese delegation, in addition to the usual political commissar, will come after India included a senior diplomat,joint secretary (East Asia) Naveen Srivastava, during the sixth round of talks on September 21.
India had made the move after it perceived a “disconnect” between the five-point diplomatic consensus reached during the September 10 talks between external affairs minister S Jaishankar and his counterpart Wang Yi and the “actual actions and behaviour” of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on the ground.
India will be represented by Lt-Generals Harinder Singh and P G K Menon (who will take over from the former as the 14 Corps commander on October 14) as well as Srivastava, among others, in the seventh round of talks to be held on the Indian side of the Chushul-Moldo border personnel meeting point.
“There is unlikely to be a breakthrough unless the PLA agrees to start withdrawing first from the `Finger’ area on the north bank of Pangong Tso, and follows it up with complete de-escalation along the entire frontier in eastern Ladakh. India will then reciprocate,” said an official on Sunday.
There is, in fact, a dominant view in the security establishment that Indian troops must not vacate the multiple heights they pre-emptively occupied on the ridge line stretching from Thakung on the south bank of Pangong Tso to Gurung Hill, Spanggur Gap, Magar Hill, Mukhpari, Rezang La and Reqin La (Rechin mountain pass) on August 29-30.
“These heights in the Chushul region are militarily much more significant than the north bank of Pangong Tso. They provide our troops with a clear view of the PLA’s Moldo military garrison, posts and roads in the region,” said the official.
The PLA, on its part, is insisting that Indian troops must first vacate the Chushul heights. India will, however, demand `complete de-escalation’ at the troop face-off sites as well as along the entire frontier in eastern Ladakh during the talks.