India, China hold fresh talks to defuse border tensions


India and China on Tuesday held a new round of military talks to defuse tensions that had cropped up after Chinese troops tried to intrude into Indian territory over the weekend in an attempt to open a new front in ongoing faceoff between the two neighbours.

The talks at the brigade commander level were taking place in Chushul, a person familiar with the matter said. The talks notwithstanding, the Indian Army had significantly strengthened its presence and vigilance at a number of “strategic heights” and positions by enhancing deployment of troops and weapons around the Pangong lake – the scene of tensions since early May besides the attempt over the weekend. The Army has also bolstered overall surveillance mechanisms all along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the person cited above said.

These developments coincided with the Chinese embassy in New Delhi issuing a fresh statement accusing India of violating a consensus reached in previous military and diplomatic talks between the two countries and trespassing across the LAC border.

According to the statement on Tuesday issued by embassy spokeswoman Ji Rong, Indian troops “illegally trespassed the Line of Actual Control again at the southern bank of the Pangong Tso Lake and near the Reqin Pass in the western sector of China-India border, and conducted flagrant provocations, which again stirred tension in the border areas.”

“India’s move has grossly violated China’s territorial sovereignty, seriously violated relevant agreements, protocols and important consensus reached between the two countries, and severely damaged peace and tranquility along the China-India border areas. What India has done runs counter to the efforts made by both sides for a period of time to ease and cool down the situation on the ground, and China is resolutely opposed to this,” Ji said.

“China has made solemn representations to the Indian side, urged the Indian side to strictly control and restrain its frontline troops, earnestly honor its commitments, immediately stop all the provocative actions, immediately withdraw its troops illegally trespassing the Line of Actual Control, immediately stop any actions leading to the escalation and complication of the situation,” she added.

The tone and content of the statement mirrored one issued a day earlier by the Chinese military. It came after the Indian Army in a statement on Monday said that Chinese troops had tried to encroach into Indian territory along the southern bank of the Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh. Analysts and former military officials said that there was no dispute over claims on the lake’s southern bank which was always held by India – leading to the belief that China was attempting to open a new front in the midst of ongoing tensions with the aim of changing the status quo on the ground.

As of now, Chinese troops are ensconced in the heights of Finger 4 – one of eight mountain spurs jutting into the Pangong Tso lake along the northern border and are refusing to move back to their previously held position at Finger 8. India used to claim upto Finger 4 but patrol upto Finger 8 while China used to hold position till Finger 8 and patrol upto Finger 4. Chinese troops are also refusing to move from the positions it had come up to at Patrolling Point 17A while it has moved back from two places – Patrolling points 14 and 15.

Tensions have been running high since India first detected intrusions by Chinese troops into its territory in early May. They were exacerbated by a violent clash between soldiers of the two sides on 15 June at Galwan valley in which 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed.

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