New Delhi/Moscow, Sep 10 (PTI) External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi held crucial talks in Moscow on Thursday to resolve the prolonged border standoff in eastern Ladakh in the midst of a massive spike in tensions with the armies of the two countries further fortifying their positions in the region.
It is learnt that the two foreign ministers began their much anticipated meeting a little after 8 PM (IST) and the talks went on for at least two hours with the sole focus on bringing down tensions and ensuring disengagement of troops from the face-off sites.
There was no official word on the outcome of the parleys that took place on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting amid hopes of a possible breakthrough in ending the four-month-long face-off.
“The focus of the talks was to lower the temperature between the two armies and begin disengagement of troops,” said a source.
It was the second highest level bilateral political talks in less than a week and the first face-to-face meeting between the two foreign ministers since the standoff erupted in early May. The defence ministers of the two countries held talks in Moscow on Friday on the sidelines of another meeting of the SCO in the Russian capital.
Jaishankar and Wang earlier spoke on the phone on June 17, two days after the deadly clashes in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh in which 20 Indian Army personnel were killed.The Chinese side also suffered casualties but it is yet to give out the details. According to an American intelligence report, the number of casualties on the Chinese side was 35.
Earlier in the day, Jaishankar and Wang attended a meeting of foreign ministers of the eight-nation SCO for which they travelled to Moscow. Before their bilateral talks, the two foreign ministers also came face-to-face at a meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia-India-China (RIC) grouping.
The Jaishankar-Wang talks took place two days after the Indian Army accused Chinese military of firing in the air to intimidate its troops, a first such instance of bullets being used along the LAC after a gap of 45 years. The Chinese People”s Liberation Army(PLA) late on Monday night also accused the Indian Army of firing in the air.
As the incident escalated tensions, both India and Chinese militaries amassed additional troops, battle tanks and other weaponry in further strengthening of their respective forward positions along the LAC.
At a media briefing on Thursday evening, Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Anurag Srivastava reiterated India”s position that it is committed to resolve the current situation through peaceful negotiations.
“Both India and China are in regular touch through diplomatic and military channels to resolve the situation. This was the consensus when the two defence ministers met,” he said.
Government sources said the Indian Army has further bolstered its dominance over a number of strategic heights overlooking key Chinese-held positions around Pangong lake area in eastern Ladakh.
They said additional reinforcements have been made in hill tops and strategic locations around Pangong lake to keep a hawk-eye vigil on Chinese-held position of Finger 4. The mountainous spurs in the area are referred to as Finger.
China has been holding onto Finger 4 to 8 on the north bank of Pangong lake, the sources said.
The Indian Army has occupied several key heights in the strategically located Rezang-La and Reqin-La areas on the southern bank of the lake since the end of August.
The sources said the two armies held separate talks at brigade commander-level as well as between commanding officers in the general area of Chushul.
The border situation deteriorated after China unsuccessfully attempted to occupy Indian territory in the southern bank of Pangong lake on the intervening night of August 29 and 30.
India occupied a number of strategic heights on the southern bank of Pangong lake and strengthened its presence in Finger 2 and Finger 3 areas in the region to thwart any Chinese actions. China has strongly objected to India”s move. However, India has maintained that the heights are on its side of the LAC. PTI MPB GSN GSN GSN