India, China establish hotline in North Sikkim sector to enhance mutual trust

A signboard is seen from the Indian side of the Indo-China border at Bumla, in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo

New Delhi: In a confidence-building measure, the Indian and the Chinese armies on Sunday activated a new hotline in the North Sikkim sector to facilitate their local commanders to speak directly and address any issue or differences on the ground along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), officials said.

The establishment of the hotline between the Indian Army in Kongra La in North Sikkim and China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) at Khamba Dzong in the Tibetan Autonomous Region came a day after the two armies held a nine-hour meeting with a focus on the disengagement process in remaining friction points in eastern Ladakh.

The Indian Army said the hotline has been established to further the "spirit of trust and cordial relations along the borders". The setting up of the hotline coincided with PLA Day.

It said the inauguration of the new hotline was attended by ground commanders of the two armies and a "message of friendship and harmony" was exchanged through it.

"A hotline was established between Indian Army in Kongra La, North Sikkim and PLA at Khamba Dzong in Tibetan Autonomous Region to further the spirit of trust and cordial relations along the borders. The event coincided with the PLA Day on August 1," it said in a statement.

The two sides have already have hotline facilities for ground commanders in eastern Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh sectors.

"The armed forces of the two countries have well-established mechanisms for communication at ground commanders level. These hotlines in various sectors go a long way in enhancing the same and maintaining peace and tranquillity at the borders," the Army said.

"The inauguration was attended by ground commanders of the respective armies and a message of friendship and harmony was exchanged through the hotline," the Army said.

Officials said with the setting up of the hotline, the ground commanders will be able to speak directly and resolve any differences if they crop up.

In May last year, both the armies had a face-off in North Sikkim's Naku La, a region located at an altitude of 16,000 feet.

The establishment of the hotline assumed significance as it came amid a continued standoff between the two armies in a number of friction points in eastern Ladakh.

In the 12th round of high-level military talks, India on Saturday pressed for an early disengagement of troops and weapons in the remaining friction points such as Hot Springs and Gogra.

There was no official comment on the outcome of the negotiations that took place at the Moldo border point on the Chinese side of the LAC in eastern Ladakh.

Ahead of the talks, there were expectations of a breakthrough in the disengagement process in Gogra and Hot Springs.

A statement on the talks is expected on Monday.

India has been insisting that the resolution of the outstanding issues, including at Depsang, Hot Springs and Gogra, is essential for the overall ties between the two countries.

The border standoff between the Indian and Chinese militaries erupted on May 5 last year following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas and both sides gradually enhanced their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry.

As a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides completed the withdrawal of troops and weapons from the North and South banks of Pangong lake in February in line with an agreement on disengagement.

Each side currently has around 50,000 to 60,000 troops along the LAC in the sensitive sector.

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