After China and India held another day-long meeting over their border dispute on Tuesday, a former Chinese diplomat said the talks may continue for months as the two sides remain divided on key issues.
China’s Major General Liu Jin, commander of the South Xinjiang Military Region, and India’s Lieutenant General Harinder Singh, commander of Leh-based 14 Corps, began their fourth round of talks in Chushul, Ladakh, on Tuesday morning and did not finish until late in the night, according to Indian media reports.
The two commanders discussed details of a second phase disengagement – an agreed plan to pull back troops and equipment from the disputed border – after an initial phase of standing down was implemented last week, the reports said.
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China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday confirmed the meeting had taken place but gave few specifics on what was discussed.
“As I know, on July 14, border troops of China and India held the fourth round of commander-level talks building on the consensus of the previous three rounds, and the implementation of relevant work has made progress in promoting further disengagement between troops at the western section of the boundary and de-escalating tensions,” ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a press conference in Beijing.
“We hope the Indian side can meet us halfway to implement our consensus with real actions, and jointly safeguard peace and tranquillity in the border area.”
China and India share a 3,400km (2,100-mile) border in the Himalayas that has no clear official demarcation line.
Territorial disputes in three areas, covering 120,000 square kilometres (46,300 square miles) sparked a border war between the two countries in 1962, and there have been disagreements and occasional conflicts in the decades since.
The latest stand-off between border troops began in May and escalated into violence on June 15, with at least 20 Indian soldiers killed in hand-to-hand fighting in the Galway Valley. China has not acknowledged any casualties on its side.
Satellite images provided by Western communications companies show that both sides have since pulled back their troops from the border, creating a de facto buffer zone in the middle of the Galwan Valley. Indian media reports said similar buffers had been created in the Gorga and Hot Springs areas on the border.
Talks to diffuse the dispute had been held on June 6, but while military commanders agreed to ease tensions, the situation quickly deteriorated after the fatal encounter nine days later, which led to both sides sending in reinforcements. The second and third rounds of talks were held on June 22 and June 30 but the two sides reached consensus only on the primary disengagement.
A former Chinese diplomat to India, who asked not to be named, said it would be difficult for both sides to agree on troop withdrawals, especially after they had sent in reinforcements.
The two sides would have difficulty agreeing on what constituted a “fair and balanced” withdrawal, as the two forces differed in size, he said.
“Also, the Indian side has insisted they want to restore the ‘April status quo’. It would be difficult for China to accept that because from Beijing’s point of view, it was the Indian side that unilaterally upset the status quo in the first place, causing this whole dispute.”
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This article China-India border dispute: military leaders meet again in bid to ease tensions first appeared on South China Morning Post