ladakh: Ladakh: Unnerving silence as China dithers on military talks, troops hold positions

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New Delhi: The border along Eastern Ladakh is engulfed in unnerving silence as China has been dithering on crucial military commander talks that have been planned to defuse tensions and troops holding on to forward positions within firing range of each other.

Sources said that China is yet to finalise the agenda and dates for the Corp Commander-level talks but an uneasy calm is being maintained since the talks between external affairs minister S Jaishankar and his counterpart on September 10.

While there had been sporadic incidents of warning firing in the air on the north and southern banks of Pangong lake prior to the talks, officials said that no aggressive manoeuvre has taken place over the past week though soldiers remain dug in.

Though the agenda for talks, which are expected to decide the way forward for disengagement at several flashpoints on the border, has not been decided, it is possible that representatives from the ministry of external affairs (MEA) could be part of the meeting, sources said.

This gains significance as in all past rounds of military talks there has been no diplomatic representation. India has been of the firm view that diplomatic talks by China that speak of disengagement and peace are not being matched by the actions of the PLA on ground in Ladakh.

An MEA representation would also be needed if the talks broach the topic of a common understanding of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to avoid future military confrontations, specially at the active flashpoints.

While it is unclear why the Chinese side has not finalised the dates for the meeting, there is an understanding that Beijing is evaluating its options as for the first time since early May, it is faced with a disadvantageous position on the border. This, after Indian forces occupied key heights and passes on the northern and southern banks of the Pangong lake in late August and early September.

India meanwhile is prepared for the long haul, with its logistics chain ready to support over 50,000 troops deployed near the area of conflict. The air force has been working non stop to deliver supplies including rations, medicines and equipment to soldiers in Ladakh, with officials saying that adequate provisioning has been made at all forward areas.

Soldiers have been equipped with special extreme weather clothing and tentage to enable them to stay at the newly-created forward positions in Eastern Ladakh through the harsh winter season.

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