India-China standoff: Army Chief briefs PM, other senior ministers

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New Delhi:  Army Chief General Bikram Singh today briefed the Cabinet Committee on Security on the Chinese incursion in Ladakh that has caused tension at the border between the two neighbours since April 15, when a Chinese platoon pitched tents about 19 km inside Indian territory. He carried into the meeting, held at the 7 Race Course Road residence of the Prime Minister, news that a third round of talks between the two sides yesterday saw no headway.
Here are the latest developments in the story:
  1. At the third flag meeting between army commanders from both countries yesterday, China reportedly suggested that the two armies increase the distance between the temporary camps that they have set up in the Depsang Valley near the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de facto border.
  2. India rejected this offer, saying that nothing short of complete withdrawal of the Chinese troops from Indian territory will do.
  3. The Chinese were told that till they withdraw, India will not move its own camp that it set up just 500 metres away where the Chinese troops have pitched their tents.
  4. But in China's offer, India sees the first signs of willingness to compromise and hopes this could eventually lead to a return to the "status quo" before the incursion. Beijing has so far insisted that it has not violated the border.
  5. At yesterday's meeting, China also reportedly reiterated its demand that India dismantle infrastructure that it has set up in eastern Ladakh and stop new construction. India has refused saying this is its territory.
  6. Today is May Day and Indian Army jawans are likely to cross over into Chinese territory at the Spanggur gap near Chushul to participate in Labour Day celebrations. This is a tradition at the border on May 1. Chushul is about 100 km away from the spot in Ladakh where the Chinese troops have camped.
  7. New Delhi is prepared, say sources, for the long haul but is not considering the military response that political leaders like Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav have suggested. Mr Yadav had claimed in Parliament that the Indian Army is ready to respond but is being held back by the UPA government.
  8. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid told NDTV yesterday, "Mr Mulayam Singh being a (former) Defence Minister would know that it is the local commanders who are handling the issue at the flag meetings. If there is a need for higher diplomacy we will be ready for it."
  9. Mr Khurshid has countered the opposition's accusation that the government's response to China has been "weak" and that it is "submitting to a bully" by saying, "We are engaged in the mechanism that we have put in place to ensure that border incidents are resolved amicably. We would not like to have unnecessary issues put into it. We have to ensure that our perception of the LAC is preserved and any violation of it is set right."
  10. The SP and other political parties have also slammed the government for going ahead with Mr Khurshid's scheduled visit to Beijing on May 9 despite the border stand-off. Mr Khurshid confirmed in his interview to NDTV yesterday that those plans are on track.


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