Army, MEA bid can resolve LAC stand-off

NEW DELH (TIP)I: A third flag meeting to resolve the stand-off created by the April 15th Chinese incursion in Ladakh may be held on Friday, according to sources in the security establishment.

The third meeting is likely to be held either at the same level of seniority as the earlier two flag meetings, or possibly at a lower level, sources said. At the first two flag meetings on April 18 and 23, the Indian side was represented by a brigadier, and China by a senior colonel.

Even as the Chinese local commander’s willingness to stay engaged through a possible third flag meeting is welcomed by the Indian border forces, officials in the security establishment don’t sound too hopeful of an immediate resolution of the issue. “The situation may need an intervention at a higher level in the Army or the government to resolve,” a senior intelligence official said, adding that the PLA troops may agree to go back only closer to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India, beginning May 20. The border row will also be taken up by external affairs minister Salman Khurshid during his visit to China, starting May 9. Sources in the security establishment said that China has sought a more concrete arrangement for resolution of border issues on the ground.

This is being interpreted as a call for a more structured mechanism for flag meetings and procedures for retreat each time an incursion is flagged. With the Chinese troops refusing to budge from the tented post they have set up at Raki Nala, 18km inside of what India perceives as its side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), a series of flag meetings have been held to persuade them to retreat and restore the status quo.

However, the Chinese have used these meetings to flag the “heightened Indian activity close to the border in the recent months, including movement of troops, erection of new border outposts and strengthening of infrastructure such as roads and landing grounds”. A platoon of PLA troops transgressed deep into what India claims as its territory on April 15, and refused to retreat despite the Indian border forces flagging the incursion by raising banners as per laid down procedures.

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The Chinese troops have since erected a tented post and are staying there since April 15. Indian border forces, too, have stationed a matching contingent just opposite the Chinese post.

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