New Delhi, April 09:

Senior commanders of the Indian and Chinese armies will meet in eastern Ladakh on Friday to negotiate the next steps of a complex disengagement process that was completed in Pangong Tso in mid-February with the pullback of front-line troops and weapons, but is yet to make any headway at other friction points, officials familiar with the developments said on the eve of the dialogue.

The 11th round of talks between corps commander-rank officers is expected to focus on outstanding problems with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) at Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang, the officials said. It will begin on the Indian side of the Chushul-Moldo meeting point at 10.30am, they said.

While disengagement began and ended in the Pangong Lake sector in less than 10 days, it appears to have lost its initial momentum going by the absolute lack of progress at other friction points along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC), said a top retired commander, asking not to be named. “I don’t expect much from the dialogue as we are not building enough pressure on the Chinese.”

The ministry of external affairs spokesperosn, Arindam Bagchi at weekly briefing on Thursday said, “We would like to see disengagement in the remaining areas, which would lead to de-escalation in eastern Ladakh and that would hopefully lead to restoration of peace and tranquillity and provide conditions for progress of our overall bilateral relationship.During the meeting on March 12 of the Working Mechanism on Coordination and Consultation (WMCC), both sides had agreed to convene the 11th round of the senior commanders meeting.”

The 10th round of talks between corps commander-rank officers of the two armies took place on February 20 after the completion of disengagement on strategic heights on both banks of Pangong Tso. Both sides pulled back their front-line troops, tanks, infantry combat vehicles and artillery guns under the disengagement agreement.

At a marathon 16-hour meeting between senior commanders on February 20, the Indian and Chinese armies agreed to resolve outstanding issues at friction points on LAC in a “steady and orderly” manner, were unanimous that the Pangong Tso disengagement provided “a good basis” for resolving pending problems and decided to take forward the military dialogue to stabilise the ground situation in eastern Ladakh. China on Thursday said it was in contact with India to hold the 11th meeting of military commanders to resolve the tension along the LAC.

Responding to a question on the meeting, the Chinese foreign ministry blamed India for the “situation” at the border but denied that the talks have been delayed though the 10th round was nearly seven weeks ago.

“China and India are in communication for holding the 11th round of talks. There is no delayed meeting as you cited,” ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian said at the briefing on Thursday in response to a question.

“I have no information about the upcoming talks,” he said, responding to a related question.

“I want to stress that the merits of the situation at (the) India- China border are very clear and the responsibility does not rest with the Chinese side,” he said.

“We hope Indian side will work with China to follow through the important consensus of our two leaders, abide by relevant agreements and treaties to de-escalate the tension at the border,” Zhao added.

To a question on whether China will consider India’s proposal of restoring the status quo of April 2020, Zhao said: “For the proposal you mentioned I believe it should be talked in the meetings and I already made clear my position on the border issue just now.”

The two neighbours have been locked in a standoff since May last year after Chinese troops impeded patrols by Indian forces. A brutal clash at Galwan Valley last June – which left 20 Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese troops dead and was the first incident on the LAC involving fatalities since 1975 – took bilateral ties to an all-time low.