The foreign ministers of India and China met in Moscow today as a sidebar to the ongoing Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting in Moscow. India’s senior diplomat Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi met for two-and-a-half hours as both sides attempt to calm the situation after hostilities flared up earlier in the week along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Monday’s standoff along the south bank of Pangong Tso Lake is responsible for bringing tensions to a near-boil. Chinese troops armed with spears and rifles approached Indian forward outposts and attempted to spark a physical fight. During the standoff shots were fired, the first time in 45 years that firearms have been discharged along the LAC. Just who fired the shots is unknown. China claims it was Indian troops who fired shots after ‘crossing the LAC.’ Predictably, India blames Chinese troops for firing the shots when they were forced to retreat.
Up to the time of the meeting today, Indian and Chinese military activity along the LAC continued. Indian troops occupied the heights that overlook Chinese positions at Finger 4. Taking control of the high ground, always an advantage in land warfare, is doubly advantageous in the rugged, mountain terrain of the LAC. Meanwhile, Indian and Chinese brigade-level commanders held ‘interactions’ in Eastern Ladakh. The purpose is to keep the lines of communications open even in the midst of a flareup.
So, diplomats and army officers from both sides continue to deliberate, and hold discussions. At the same time, military units continue to maneuver on the ground. The question is whether or not China will continue its strategy of subtle territorial pecks along the LAC. The potential for an armed conflict remains relatively high in the area even as both sides profess their desire to settle the crisis through diplomatic means.