Ahead of India-China military talks, US says China trying to intimidate neighbours

A day ahead of the 14th round of military discussions between India and China to find a resolution to the over 21-month long standoff in eastern Ladakh, the United States Tuesday said it was closely monitoring the situation and highlighted that China’s behaviour was an attempt to intimidate its neighbours. The US said it would continue to stand with its partners.

Speaking during a daily press briefing, President Joe Biden’s Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “We continue to closely monitor the situation, and we continue to support dialogue and peaceful resolution of these border disputes.” She was responding to a question on China’s “aggressive behaviour” on its border with India.

“We’ve been pretty clear how we view Beijing’s behaviour in the region and around the world. We believe it can be destabilising. And, we’re concerned by the (People’s Republic of China)’s attempt to intimidate its neighbours,” she said.

Psaki asserted, “We’ll continue to stand with our partners on that.”

Regarding the relationship with India in 2022, Psaki said that “you can expect our governments will be moving forward on a wide-ranging set of initiatives, from cooperating to fight the pandemic, scaling up action to address climate change, working bilaterally and through the Quad, expanding our cooperation and trading investments, cyber and in new and emerging technologies… and, as always, we are focused on strengthening the deep ties between our people and our shared democratic values that underpin the relationship.”

India and China are scheduled to hold the next round of Corps Commander-level discussions on the Chinese side of the Chushul-Moldo Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) point on Wednesday morning.

India is hopeful of a constructive dialogue during the meeting. Sources in the security establishment said on Monday the “Indian side is looking forward to constructive dialogue to resolve the balance friction areas.”

Interestingly, the delegations from both sides will be led by new officers in the meeting.

Lt Gen Anindya Sengupta, who took over as the commander of the Leh-based XIV Corps last week, will lead the Indian delegation on Wednesday for the first time. Though he was part of the 13th round of discussions in October as well, the meeting was headed by Lt Gen PGK Menon, who was the head of the XIV Corps at the time.

For China, the delegation will be led by Maj Gen Yang Lin, commander of the South Xinjiang Military District. During the meeting in October, his deputy Maj Gen Zhao Zhi Dan had led the delegation, after a number of changes were made across the People’s Liberation Army. Maj Gen Liu Lin had led 12 rounds of these negotiations for China till July 2021, as the commander of the South Xinjiang Military District.

However, even as India had expected that the two sides would agree for disengaging from Patrolling Point (PP) 15 in Hot Springs, the meeting had ended with both sides blaming each other. After the meeting, India said it had “emphasised such resolution of the remaining areas would facilitate progress in the bilateral relations” and had made “constructive suggestions for resolving the remaining areas”. However, it said, “the Chinese side was not agreeable and also could not provide any forward-looking proposals.”

Each side has a platoon-sized strength of soldiers in the Hot Springs area.

Apart from PP15, there are two more regions that are yet to be resolved. In Depsang Plains, Chinese troops are blocking Indian soldiers from accessing their traditional patrolling limits at PP10, PP11, PP11A, PP12 and PP13. The area is close to India’s strategically significant Daulat Beg Oldi near the Karakoram Pass in the north.

In Demchok, some so-called civilians from China have pitched tents on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and are refusing to vacate.

Till now, the two militaries have disengaged from PP14 in Galwan Valley, north bank of Pangong Tso, heights of Kailash Range in the Chushul sub-sector, and PP17A near Gogra Post. Both sides have more than 50,000 troops each in the region, along with additional air defence assets, artillery, missiles, tanks and other military equipment.

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