Has China hardened its stand in India-China border talks?
by R Hariharan on 23 Apr 2021 7 Comments

The 11th Corps Commander-level meeting between India and China was held on the Indian side of the Chushul-Moldo border point in Ladakh on April 9, 2021. The meeting was said to have lasted for 13 hours. Unlike the 19th round meeting held in February, no joint statement was issued at the end of the meeting. The statements issued separately by the two countries at the end of the meeting indicated no progress was made at the talks.


In substance this means the PLA has not agreed to pullback troops from the four friction points 15, 17 and 17A in Hot Springs-Gogra-Kongka La area. Secondly, no de-escalation of troops at Depsang is in sight, as one motorized division, an artillery brigade and an air defence unit will continue to be deployed in the region.


India’s defence ministry statement said, “The two sides had a detailed exchange of views for the resolution of the remaining issues related to disengagement along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh” and agreed on the need to resolve “the outstanding issues in an expeditious manner” in accordance with the existing agreements and protocols. The Indian statement had a positive note, highlighting the completion of disengagement in other areas would pave the way for two sides “to consider de-escalation of forces and ensure full restoration of peace and tranquility and enable progress in bilateral relations.”


Even before the talks started, China appeared to have made up its mind to adopt a hard line. This was evident from the answer of the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on April 8, to a question from the Indian media on the delayed talks. He said, “I’d like to stress that the ins and outs of the China-India border issue are very clear. The responsibility does not rest with China. It is hoped that India will meet with China half way, earnestly implement the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries, and take concrete actions to further ease the border situation. ”


The terse statement of the spokesman of the Western Theatre of the People’s Liberation Army, Col. Long Shaohua, issued after the talks, used the same key words. It said, “The two sides exchanged views on issues of mutual concern and will continue to maintain communication through military and diplomatic channels.” It further hoped that the Indian side will cherish the current positive trend of relaxation and cooling in the Sino-Indian border area, abide by the relevant agreements and the consensus of the previous talks and “meet the Chinese side halfway to jointly maintain peace and tranquility in the border area.”  


Obviously, China appears to have hardened its stand since pulling out its troops from Pangong Tso area to cool down the situation in January. Is it to show China’s unhappiness at India taking an active role in Quad summit and in achieving greater coordination between the security forces of member countries?


In this context, a news item in the South China Morning Post on developments in Tibet is interesting. Fifteen border regulations to maintain security and stability of the border area have been introduced in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) to prevent infiltration activities. The news report quoted an anonymous insider to say that “according to Chinese officials more than 10,000 exiled Tibetans were being trained as special operations troops in India.” Apparently this was a reference to the ITBP special forces who were successfully used to gain domination of Indian forces in the Ladakh border confrontation. The ITBP had been there for decades. Has their employment in Ladakh operations given the willies to the Chinese?




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