NEW DELHI: India will once again demand ‘complete de-escalation’ by China at troop face-off sites as well as along the entire frontier in eastern Ladakh, in accordance with the first in, first out’ principle, during the seventh round of military talks now slated for October 12.
But with China yet to show any real intent on the ground for de-escalation with a clear-cut de-induction timetable, India remains prepared with ‘high operational military readiness’ to deal with any contingency, said a senior defence official on Sunday.
The next two months are decidedly crucial because once the harsh winter fully sets in eastern Ladakh, it will willy-nilly bring to an end the ‘military campaigning season’ for either side to launch any full-scale operation in the high-altitude region.
“As of now, it’s difficult to predict how things will pan out. From December onwards, it will become very difficult for both sides to operate at those heights,” said another official.
“There will be vastly reduced operational efficiency. But our armed forces are geared to remain forward deployed throughout the winter, with operational logistics more or less in place now,” he added.
The October 12 military talks will be held in the backdrop of both sides agreeing not to further escalate tensions by sending additional soldiers to the frontlines during the sixth round on September 21.
The military dialogue, in which there was no breakthrough on the proposed de-escalation, was followed by another round of diplomatic talks. But China concurrently also upped the ante by once again bringing up its unilaterally defined line of actual control of 1959, which India has firmly rejected in the past.
During the seventh round of military talks, the Indian delegation will include 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 joint secretary (East Asia) Naveen Srivastava in the external affairs ministry.
The two armies, meanwhile, are keeping in regular contact at brigadier and battalion commander levels to avoid “misunderstandings and misjudgments” and prevent any accidental escalation after four incidents of warning shots being exchanged last month.
The PLA has been insisting Indian troops vacate the tactical heights they preemptively 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.
But India has countered that it has to be “a whole of eastern Ladakh” de-escalation plan, including the “friction points” at Pangong Tso, Chushul and Gogra-Hotsprings as well as the heavy PLA build-up in the strategically-located Depsang-Daulat Beg Oldie sector, as reported by TOI earlier.