As the standoff in eastern Ladakh, which began in April 2020, continues at some friction points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), India and China will meet for the 16th round of talks on 17 July to discuss disengagement.
While the forces have already disengaged from the north bank of the Pangong Lake, the Galwan Valley and the peaks of the Kailash Range, soldiers are still deployed in close proximity in many areas, including Hot Springs.
Like the last two rounds, the 16th round of talks will see the two sides discuss disengagement in Hot Springs. The standoff at Hot Springs was also discussed during the 14th round of talks in January and the 15th round in March. However, no breakthrough was achieved.
The 13th round of talks between the two sides, held in October last year, had also ended without an agreement on disengagement at the remaining friction points along the LAC in eastern Ladakh.
The Indian statement after the 13th round of talks said that the Chinese side did not come up with any "forward looking proposals" on the issue of disengagement and was "not agreeable" to India's "constructive suggestions" for the resolution of issues at the remaining friction points.
"The meeting thus did not result in resolution of the remaining areas," the statement issued by the Indian Army read.
China responded by calling India's statement "groundless".
According to a report in Indian Express, India has recently rejected a Chinese proposal for disengagement at Hot Springs, which would have reportedly seen Indian soldiers withdrawing from the eyeball-to-eyeball standoff at PP 15 and moving to the Karam Singh Post between PP 16 and PP 17. The proposal, the report added, came around the time of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit to New Delhi in March.
The 16th round of talks comes ahead of the G-20 Summit in November this year and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Heads of State Council in Uzbekistan in September. At the SCO Heads of State Council, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time since the standoff along the LAC in eastern Ladakh.
According to reports, the two leaders have not met or spoken directly after the LAC standoff and the Galwan killings.
India's Tibet policy also appears to have undergone some changes since the standoff as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been publicly acknowledging phone calls to His Holiness the Dalai Lama on his birthdays for two years now. Union ministers, including Minister of State for External Affairs Meenakshi Lekhi, have been seen participating in events linked to the Tibetan government in exile in India.
Interestingly, the Indian Army had deployed units of the Special Frontier Force, which draws a large number of its recruits from the Tibetan community living in exile in India, to capture the peaks of the Kailash Range in August 2020, weeks after the clashes in Galwan.
Unsurprisingly, China has objected to India's interactions with the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile.
After Prime Minister Modi wished the Tibetan spiritual leader on his birthday earlier this month and acknowledged the phone call on Twitter, China's wolf-warrior diplomat and Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing that "the Indian side should fully recognise the anti-China separatist nature of the 14th Dalai Lama".
Dalai Lama's arrival in Ladakh on 15 July, just before the Indian and Chinese officials meet on 17 July, is being seen as a signal from New Delhi to Beijing and is unlikely to go down well with the Chinese Communist Party. The spiritual leader will be in Ladakh during the talks and stay in the Union Territory for over a month to deliver sermons and meet people.
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