India-China talks paused as new PLA commander comes

Ninth round of talks between India and China on hold as new PLA Western Theatre Commander takes over

Gen Zhang took over the reins from Gen Zhao Zongqi

A handout satellite image taken on June 22, 2020 shows road construction near the Line of Actual Control in the eastern Ladakh sector, the border between India and China. Credit: AFP file photo.

Military talks between India and China have been paused for the time being as newly-appointed People’s Liberation Army’s Western Theatre Commander Gen Zhang Xudong takes over as military head of Tibet and Xinjiang and familiarises himself with the borders and troop deployments.

Gen Zhang has no experience with the Indian border or Tibet, and he took over the reins on December 21 from Gen Zhao Zongqi, a veteran in those areas and the brains behind China’s Doklam aggression in 2017 and East Ladakh in May 2020.

Senior officials have told The Hindustan Times that the last meeting between the two countries, the eighth round of talks held on December 18, ended on a positive note but a written disengagement and de-escalation agreement is yet to be written out.

The dates for the ninth round have not been decided as India expects the induction of the new leader to take some time. Gen Zhang will be brought up to speed about the Line of Actual Control and the leader will also visit the major deployment sites.

President Xi Jinping hopes to project the Asian superpower as the leading economic and military power in the world in 2021, the 100th year of the Communist Party of China. That is why India expects Beijing to be pulling the string behind Gen Zhang. He will have a similar approach toward India as his predecessor, which is to keep East Ladakh in stand-off mode and keep up the pressure, according to the report.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research recently released its World Economic League Table that China will overthrow the US as the largest economy by 2028.

The Chinese media is putting the blame on India and right-wing nationalism in its government for making the situation look worse than it is. The Communist Party has also warned India to understand the difference between the military might of the two countries.