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Focus on defusing tensions at friction points in Ladakh

 NEW DELHI, Sept 22 - The sixth round of military talks between India and China that lasted 14 hours focused on ways to defuse rising tensions along the treacherous and high-altitude friction points in eastern Ladakh considering the approaching harsh winter, people familiar with the developments said on Tuesday.

 The outcome of the marathon talks on Monday was not immediately known, but it is learnt that both sides agreed to meet again to take forward the negotiations.

At the talks, the Indian side pressed for an early and complete disengagement of Chinese troops from all the friction points and insisted it was for China to take the first steps to de-escalate the situation, government sources said. “The focus was to defuse tensions,” a source said.

The Indian side conveyed its position as the two delegations extensively deliberated on implementing the five-point agreement reached between India and China on September 10 to ease the border standoff that began in early May.

It is learnt that the Indian delegation also insisted on a time-bound implementation of the agreement finalised during the extensive talks between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet.

The sources said the agenda for the talks was to chart a specific timeline for implementation of the five-point agreement.

The agreement aimed at ending the tense standoff included measures like quick disengagement of troops, avoiding action that could escalate tensions, adherence to all agreements and protocols on border management and steps to restore peace along the LAC.

The government sources said the talks began around 9 am in Moldo on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) across India’s Chushul sector in eastern Ladakh and ended at 11 pm.

The two sides also mentioned the harsh winter in the Ladakh region beginning October when temperatures fall upto minus 25 degree and oxygen becomes scarce, the sources said.

The Indian delegation was headed by Lt Gen Harinder Singh, the commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps of the Indian Army.

For the first time, the Indian team for the military talks also included a senior official from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). MEA Joint Secretary Naveen Srivastava, who has been engaged in diplomatic talks with China on the border row under the framework of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs, was part of the delegation.

The team also comprised Lt Gen PGK Menon, who is expected to succeed Singh as the commander of the 14 Corps next month.

At the previous five rounds of Corps commander-level talks, the Indian side insisted on complete disengagement of Chinese troops at the earliest, and immediate restoration of status quo ante in all areas of eastern Ladakh prior to April. The fifth round of Corps commander talks on August 2 lasted nearly 11 hours while the fourth round went on for nearly 15 hours on July 14. – PTI

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