Top generals of both sides meet in a Himalayan outpost in Chinese-controlled Kashmir, in a bid to end the latest frontier showdown between the powerful armies. It wasn't immediately clear what the talks yielded.

This combination of two satellite photos of the Ngari Gunsa civil-military airport base taken on April 1, left, and May 17, 2020, near the border with India in the far western region of Tibet in China show development around the airport.
This combination of two satellite photos of the Ngari Gunsa civil-military airport base taken on April 1, left, and May 17, 2020, near the border with India in the far western region of Tibet in China show development around the airport. (AP)

Indian and Chinese military commanders met on Saturday to try to resolve a bitter standoff along their disputed frontier high in the Himalayas where thousands of troops on both sides are facing off.

The meeting at a border post in Moldo area of China-controlled Kashmir is the highest-level so far attended by senior commanders. 

It wasn't immediately clear what the talks yielded, while India defence ministry asked local media to refrain from "any speculative and unsubstantiated reporting" about the talks.   

Local border commanders held a series of meetings in the past four weeks but failed to break the impasse.

On Friday, Indian and Chinese foreign ministry officials also discussed the border tensions.

Indian officials say the standoff began in early May when large contingents of Chinese soldiers entered deep inside India-administered Kashmir's Ladakh region at three places, erecting tents and posts.

They said the Chinese soldiers ignored repeated verbal warnings to leave, triggering shouting matches, stone-throwing and fistfights.

China says its moves came in response to India's construction of defence facilities across the frontier into Chinese territory in Galwan Valley region.

India also mobilised thousands of soldiers and armoury.

Chinese and Indian soldiers also faced off along the frontier in India's northeastern Sikkim state in early May.

No headway during talks?

Experts in India cautioned that there was little expectation of any immediate resolution in the military meeting. In the past, most disputes between China and India have been resolved quickly through such meetings while some required diplomatic intervention.

Though skirmishes aren’t new along their long-disputed frontier, the standoff at contested Galwan Valley, where India is building a strategic road connecting the region to an airstrip close to China, has escalated in recent weeks.

The Chinese "ingress into the Galwan River valley opens up a new and worrying chapter," Ajai Shukla, a former Indian military officer and a defence commentator, wrote on his website.

India unilaterally declared Ladakh a federal territory while cutting it from India-administered Kashmir in August 2019.

Pakistan and China were among the handful of countries to strongly condemn the move, raising it at international forums including the UN Security Council. 

'Tensest of standoffs'

China and India have been locked in a dispute at border the two countries call the Line of Actual Control (or LoAC). They fought a bitter war in 1962 that spilled into Ladakh. India lost that war, also loosing a silver of Kashmir called Chinese-administered Kashmir, or Aksai Chin. 

The two sides have been trying since the early 1990s to settle their dispute without success.

The most serious dispute is over China's claims that India's northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh is part of Tibet, which India rejects.

China claims about 90,000 square kilometres of territory in India's northeast, while India says China occupies 38,000 square kilometres of its territory in the Aksai Chin Plateau in the Himalayas, a contiguous part of India-administred Kashmir.

Lieutenant General DS Hooda, who retired as head of the Indian military's Northern Command under which Kashmir and Ladakh fall, said the level of physical violence in the current standoff is "unprecedented and different from the past."

"The tensest of standoffs between soldiers of the two sides in the past have been marked by a remarkable degree of restraint and an understanding of not using force. If this restraint breaks down, each transgression could become a flash point," he said.

Possibility of India's hardline?

Chinese observers say India must first halt defence-related constructions for talks to mature. 

"Indian military must halt any constructing defence facilities across the border into Chinese territory in the Galwan Valley region, and stop crossing the border to create conflicts, which allows no wiggling room and is the fundamental sincerity the Indian side has to offer," Song Zhongping, a military expert, told Global Times on Saturday.

"There is still a possibility that India would adopt a hardline stance during the military meeting, as a way of shifting focus from its domestic difficulties of containing the Covid-19, Zhao Gancheng, a research fellow at Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told the Global Times.

Source: AP