India urges China to hold talks on Ladakh standoff as Beijing increases defence budget

There has been a military standoff in the Hot Springs area since 2020 and the objective would be to resolve and prevent any further escalation.
Image for representation (File Photo)
Image for representation (File Photo)

NEW DELHI: China’s 7.1 per cent hike in its defence budget has fuelled rumours of India urging China to talk about the military standoff around the LAC.

It is learnt that India has sent out a message to China to hold talks around the issue of LAC at the earliest. There has been a military standoff in the Hot Springs area since 2020 and the objective would be to resolve and prevent any further escalation.

Hot Springs (Kyam) is a campsite located at the border check post in the Chang Chenno River Valley in Ladakh (near the disputed border with China). Disengagement happened at Pangong Tso, Galwan and Gogra after previous rounds of talks. However, more than 50,000 troops face each other in some areas since the People's Liberation Army (PLA) carried out mass intrusions in May 2020.

China’s increasing its defence budget today is a cause of concern for India. The budget has increased from USD 209 billion last year to USD 230 billion. This is three times that of India’s military spending.

China's hike in defence spending comes amidst the PLA’s aggression in the Indo-Pacific region. Premier Li Keqiang, while presenting the budget proposals in the Parliament, has called for deepening comprehensive combat readiness from the PLA. This has alarmed and alerted India, keeping in view that the 14th round of India-China Corps Commander Level talks, held on January 12, didn’t yield any positive results. Though both sides had agreed to meet again.

India had tried to persuade China to disengage from Hot Springs and resolve patrolling rights at Depsang and Charding Nullah Junction (CNJ) in the Demchok sector. Subsequently, the External Affairs Minister, Dr S Jaishankar, during the Quad Foreign Ministers Meet in Melbourne had said that China had violated written agreements by amassing troops.

"The situation at the LAC has arisen due to the disregard by China in 2020 of written agreements with us not to amass forces at the border. So, when a large country disregards written commitments, I think it’s an issue of a legitimate concern for the entire international community,” Dr Jaishankar had said.

These comments didn’t go down well with the Chinese. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin had said, "We hope the Indian side will abide by agreements, not issue irresponsible remarks, and uphold peace and tranquillity along the border area with concrete actions.”

The Ukraine conflict should be viewed in the context of the attempts made by PLA in the past and at no stage can India afford to lose focus on the borders.

Meanwhile, the US too has been talking about China provoking India. "Just as an increasingly provocative China is challenging the United States, it is also provoking India at every turn,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central India, Donald Lu, told members of the Senate Subcommittee on the Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism on Wednesday.

Lu also said that the US was working with India on bolstering its defence capabilities to deter Chinese provocations.

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