The seventh round of Corps Commander-level talks between armies of India and China is scheduled to take place on October 12 with a specific agenda of firming up a roadmap for disengagement of troops from friction points in eastern Ladakh, government sources said on Sunday.
At the talks, the two sides are also expected to look into further steps to maintain stability on the ground and avoid any action that may trigger fresh tension in the region where troops from both sides will be facing difficult conditions in the next four months due to harsh winters, they said.
A senior official of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is set to be part of the Indian delegation at the talks which will be led by Lt Gen Harinder Singh, the commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps of the Indian Army, the sources said.
Lt Gen PGK Menon, who will succeed Lt Gen Singh as the commander of the crucial corps in mid-October, will also join the Indian team at the seventh round of military talks, they said.
Following the last round of military talks on September 21, the two sides announced a slew of decisions including not sending more troops to the frontline, refraining from unilaterally changing the situation on the ground and avoiding any actions that may further complicate matters.
The military talks were held with a specific agenda of exploring ways to implement a five-point agreement reached between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at a meeting in Moscow on September 10 on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) conclave.
The pact included measures like quick disengagement of troops, avoiding action that could escalate tensions, adherence to all agreements and protocols on border management and steps to restore peace along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Days after the military talks, the two sides held diplomatic talks under the framework of Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs, but no concrete outcome emerged from the negotiation on September 30.
After the diplomatic talks, the MEA said it was agreed that the next round of the meeting of senior commanders should be held at an early date so that both sides can work towards early and complete disengagement of the troops along the LAC in accordance with the existing bilateral agreement and protocols.
Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs Naveen Srivastava, who has been leading the Indian side at the WMCC talks, also attended the military talks on September 21 for the first time.
The sources said Srivastava is likely to be the representative of the MEA at the seventh round of talks.
It will be Lt Gen Singh’s last round of talks with the Chinese military as he will take charge as head of the prestigious Indian Military Academy around October 15.
Lt Gen Menon was also part of the Indian delegation at the sixth round of talks.
At the previous six rounds of Corps Commander-level talks, the Indian side led by Lt Gen Singh insisted on complete disengagement of Chinese troops at the earliest, and immediate restoration of status quo ante in all areas of eastern Ladakh prior to April.
The situation in eastern Ladakh deteriorated following at least three attempts by the Chinese military to “intimidate” Indian troops along the northern and southern bank of Pangong lake area between August 29 and September 8 where even shots were fired in the air for the first time at the LAC in 45 years.
As the tensions escalated further, the foreign ministers of the two countries held talks in Moscow on September 10 where they reached on the five-point agreement to defuse the situation in eastern Ladakh.
The agreement was the basis for the sixth round of Corps Commander-level talks.
In the last three months, the Indian Army rushed tanks, heavy weaponry, ammunition, fuel, food and essential winter supplies into various treacherous and high-altitude areas of the region to maintain combat readiness through the harsh winter of around four months beginning mid-October.