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India, China yet to pull back air forces from Ladakh despite 10 rounds of disengagement talks: Report

New Delhi: While India and China continue to hold negotiations for complete disengagement in eastern Ladakh, it has now emerged that both countries have still not pulled back their air forces from the main friction points.

According to a Hindustan Times report, there has been no change in the posture or the deployment of the Indian Air Force in the Ladakh sector. The report quoted a government official as saying that there is no change in the deployment of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) either.

The two countries have so far held nearly 10 rounds of top-level military talks to resolve the border standoff that began in May last year. The two nations held the 10th round of corps commander-talks on February 20 after the completion of disengagement on strategic heights on both banks of Pangong Tso.

According to the agreement reached between the two sides, the two countries pulled back their frontline troops, tanks, infantry combat vehicles and artillery guns from the main friction points.

Though no official dates have been announced for the 11th round of military talks, they are likely to focus on other points of contention – Depsang, Hot Springs and Gogra.

The report cited Air Marshal Anil Chopra (retd), director-general, Centre for Air Power Studies, as saying that it is highly unlikely that the deployment of air forces will change.

In the aftermath of the Ladakh standoff, the Indian Air Force had deployed its fighter jets at bases in the Ladakh and Tibet regions. Meanwhile, China’s PLAAF too reportedly positioned a large number of radars and missiles in the sector.

With the help of its MiG-29 fighter jets, Sukhoi-30s, Apache AH-64E attack helicopters and CH-47F (I) Chinook multi-mission helicopters, the IAF has been carrying out day-and-night, all-weather combat missions in the Ladakh sector.

Additionally, the Indian Air Force has also deployed its new Rafale fighter jets in Ladakh sector as part of its plan to strengthen its position in the region.

Refuting concerns over disengagement talks with China, the MEA said in February that it has not conceded any territory under the disengagement agreement with China.

The External Affairs Ministry further asserted that it has rather enforced observance of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to prevent any unilateral change in the status quo.

Later, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar spoke to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and discussed the implementation of their “Moscow Agreement” on the border standoff in eastern Ladakh, besides reviewing the status of disengagement.

A five-point agreement was reached between Jaishankar and Wang at a meeting in Moscow last September on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) conclave.

The pact included measures like a quick disengagement of troops, avoiding actions that could escalate tension, adherence to all agreements and protocols on border management and steps to restore peace along the LAC.