India, China Lt General hold talks for nearly 11 hours

India and China have been locked in top-level military talks to discuss the Galwan face-off and other points of dispute for more than 11 hours, army sources said late Monday night. The Lieutenant General-level meeting, which began at 11.30 AM, is being held at Moldo on the Chinese side of Chushul in eastern Ladakh.

The dialogue between Lt General Harinder Singh, who heads the Leh-based 14 Corps and Major General Lin Liu, commander of the South Xinjiang Military District of the People’s Liberation Army of China lasted till past 10:30 pm Monday, the person cited above said.

The last time a meeting at this level was held was on June 6, when India and China agreed to pull back troops in attempts to de-escalate after weeks of tension and build-up. In today’s talks, the generals resumed discussions on the disengagement process, which was stalled by the worst-ever border confrontation between the Indian and Chinese armies since 1967 last week.

On June 15, 20 soldiers were killed in the line of duty and 76 were injured in a deadly clash that broke out over the Chinese refusing to remove a tent as part of what was agreed on June 6. Indian soldiers were assaulted with crude and barbaric weapons used by the Chinese troops, including nail-studded clubs, spiked rods and stones. Army sources said 45 Chinese soldiers were killed or injured in the brawl along Galwan River. There have been a series of talks between the militaries on different levels since then, mainly to ensure the release of 10 soldiers detained by China after the Ladakh clash.

In a telephonic conversation with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on Wednesday, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar called the clashes a “premeditated” action by Chinese PLA and held it directly responsible for the incident. The Chinese soldiers used stones, nail-studded sticks, iron rods and clubs in carrying out brutal attacks on Indian soldiers after they protested the erection of a surveillance post by China on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control in Galwan.

After the clashes, the two sides held at least three-rounds of Major-General level talks to explore ways to ease the situation between the two sides. The two armies were engaged in a standoff in Galwan and several other areas of eastern Ladakh since May 5 when their troops clashed on the banks of the Pangong Tso. The situation in eastern Ladakh deteriorated after around 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers were engaged in a violent face-off on May 5 and 6. The incident in Pangong Tso was followed by a similar incident in north Sikkim on May 9.

Yesterday, at a meeting between Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat and three service chiefs, it was decided that army would change its rules of engagement with the Chinese at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Field commanders have been empowered to sanction use of firearms under ”extraordinary” circumstances. “India wants peace but will retaliate if provoked by the Chinese,” sources said after the meeting.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier also said the Army has been given full freedom to deal with the on-ground situation. The new rules will change the way the army operates across the Line of Actual Control not just in Ladakh but also in Sikkim and and in Arunachal Pradesh along the McMahon line.

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