India will await the Chinese response at the 7th military commanders meeting on October 12 in Ladakh after formally rejecting Beijing’s unilaterally defined 1959 claim on its perception of Line of Actual Control (LAC) at the diplomatic level talks on September 30. The Indian stand was firmly conveyed by joint secretary (East Asia) to his Chinese counterpart at the 19th round of Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on India-China border affairs.
While the Chinese side had dug out the 1959 LAC maximalist claim on the eve of the WMCC meeting, the Indian side made it clear that it had rejected the cartographic claim immediately after it was made by then Chinese Premier Chou En-Lai to then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru through a letter on November 7, 1959.
The Indian diplomat firmly made the point that China was already in occupation of over 33,000 km of land in Aksai Chin area and another 5,180 square km of Shaksgam Valley was illegally handed over by Pakistan in 1963. The Chinese side had no cogent reply to the Indian rejection
At the military commanders meeting next week, India expects the Chinese to come up with their position on the LAC perception that is central to resolving the current stand-off at six friction points along the 1,597 km border line in Ladakh.
The Indian side will be represented by outgoing XIV Corps Commander Lt Gen Harinder Singh who demits office on October 14, incoming commander Lt Gen PGK Menon and the foreign ministry’s joint secretary Naveen Srivastava. The Chinese side will be represented by the South Xinjiang military commander.
There is no sign that the Western Theatre Commander of People’s Liberation Army, General Zhao Zongqi, will also demit office. He has already crossed the retirement age of 65 years this April. Gen Zhao’s tenure has seen PLA aggression at Doklam in 2017 and in Ladakh this year.
According to top military commanders, there is no change in ground situation in Ladakh with both armies facing each other at the contested points and no pull-back from the depth positions.
The PLA psychological warfare, however, is in full-swing with articles about armoured personnel carriers and artillery guns being paradropped near the LAC. “This begets a question as to why did the PLA build roads to their last posts on the perceived LAC if they still have to paradrop military hardware,” said a former Indian Army chief.
China watchers believe that the continuing psy-ops are part of a plan to pressurise the Indian Army to withdraw from the Chinese perception of the LAC in the south bank of Pangong Tso. While the Indian Army is calmly holding its positions, it is also alert to any PLA pre-emption on the LAC before the snows take over at the end of this month.