Defence

India’s firm message to China: Pullback of troops is non-negotiable

The last round of talks between Indian and Chinese military commanders saw the Indian side resolutely and firmly convey that Chinese troops need to vacate intrusions in the Pangong Tso area and nothing short of restoration of pre-May 5 status quo will do.

The lengthy discussions on Tuesday were held, as previous exchanges, in a cordial manner but the Indian messaging was insistent in underlining that a Chinese pullback from areas where the People’s Liberation Army has intruded is simply non-negotiable. The tonality of the conversation would not leave any doubt on this score, said a source.

While official statements point to the complicated and time-consuming verification process for disengagement, Indian commanders made the bottomline unambiguously clear in the course of the talks with the Chinese brass.

The discussion on Depsang, where also China claims to be within its side of the LAC, was on similar lines. The Indian position was that the Chinese must sit down and discuss where the LAC lies and avoid provocative acts. “It cannot be that neither the line is discussed nor is there an end to intrusions,” the source said.

Indian forces buttressed the negotiating position with a significant exercise demonstrating “application of integrated combined force in high altitude terrain” in the presence of defence minister Rajnath Singh on Friday. The intent was to demonstrate that Indian capacities in the region now pack a punch.

The unsaid signal to China is fairly evident that India will not shirk from use of force — and is in fact very well prepared in this respect — in the event of a confrontation as it seeks restoration of status quo. The readiness to use military muscle comes even as India pursues a negotiated easing of tensions along the Line of Actual Control.

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