As the military standoff with China on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) enters its fourth year, New Delhi is in no mood to acquiesce to Beijing’s recent efforts to promote a narrative that the situation in Ladakh is stable and moving towards “normalised management”, people familiar with the matter said.
The border row in eastern Ladakh erupted into the open with a skirmish between troops of the two nations at Pangong Lake in early May 2020. A brutal clash at Galwan Valley the following month, which resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese troopers, took bilateral ties to their lowest point in six decades.
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The resolution of outstanding problems along the LAC appears elusive, with the latest round of military talks between the two sides on April 23 yielding no outcome, and the last breakthrough coming in September 2022.
Amid the impasse, China has sought to push a narrative that the situation in Ladakh is generally stable and the two countries should move towards normalisation. The latest Chinese leader to push this narrative was defence minister General Li Shangfu, who said at a meeting with his Indian counterpart last week that the border is “generally stable” and the two countries should “place the border issue in an appropriate position” and “promote the transition of the border situation to normalised management”.
India-China relations cannot be normalised without peace and tranquillity on the LAC, the people cited above said, requesting anonymity. In this context, they pointed to friction points such as Depsang and Demchok and external affairs minister S Jaishankar’s recent remarks that the situation on the LAC remains “very fragile” as there are points where Indian and Chinese troop deployments are “quite dangerous”.
“The Chinese side has been putting out a narrative about moving towards normalisation on the border. That is not going to happen,” one of the people said.
The border talks have been deadlocked since the Indian Army and China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) pulled back troops from Patrolling Point-15 in September 2022. That disengagement, the fourth since the LAC row erupted in early May 2020, took place after the 16th round of talks between military commanders on July 17, 2022.
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