Slight troop pull-back by India & China from confrontation at Eastern Ladakh, but Pangong Tso remains a big hurdle

4 months ago 31
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NEW DELHI : India and China have “slightly” pulled back their troops from three out of the four confrontation sites along the line of actual control in eastern

Ladakh

as a confidence-building measure ahead of another round of military talks to begin from Wednesday-Thursday.
But there has been no change as yet in the ground position at the main face-off site on the northern bank of

Pangong Tso

(Tso means lake), where Chinese soldiers have occupied the entire area from “Finger-4 to 8” (mountainous spurs separated by a distance of 8-km) to block all

Indian patrols

since early-May.
Official sources on Tuesday said the “limited mutual troop pull-back” at the confrontation sites in the Galwan Valley region (patrolling points 14 and 15) and Gogra-Hot Springs area over the last couple of days is a clear signal that the actual disengagement in the Himalayan region is now firmly on the cards.
Indian and Chinese troops, along with their heavy weaponry and armoured vehicles, have withdrawn “by about 1 to 2 km” at these confrontation sites. “The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has moved back around 20 vehicles from these areas. This, of course, is not enough since they moved in first. They have to withdraw more,” said a source.
PLA soldiers had intruded up to 3 km across the LAC at these sites in early-May, while also deploying 5,000-7,000 additional troops with tanks and artillery guns in the “rear areas” on their own territory. India, though belatedly, has also more than matched the Chinese build-up, as was earlier reported by TOI.
“While there is a broad agreement to disengage peacefully from Galwan and Gogra-Hot Springs area, the actual modalities will have to be worked out in meetings. A dialogue at the major-general level is likely on Wednesday or Thursday. Restoration of status quo ante is still some way off. It’s not a done deal yet,” said a source.
The face-off at Pangong Tso, where the LAC runs north to south at “Finger-8”, in particular, remains a “tough” situation to resolve. It will require another round of higher-level dialogue like the one between 14 Corps commander Lt-General Harinder Singh and South Xinjiang Military District chief Major General Liu Lin at the Chushul-Moldo border personnel meeting (BPM) point on June 6, said sources.
The June 6 meeting led to the CBMs involving “partial withdrawal” of forces by both sides, even as diplomatic channels are also being worked to resolve the more than a month-long confrontation, said sources.
India wants a return to the ground situation as it existed in mid-April before PLA began building-up its troop along the LAC, and then intruded into Indian territory at multiple points in a well-planned operation in early-May.
The return to status quo ante will involve the PLA’s pull-back from the “Finger 4” area at Pangong Tso, as also demolition of its bunkers and other fortifications built in the area.
Pangong Tso, which has always been contentious unlike the largely settled Galwan Valley region, witnessed the violent clash that left several soldiers from both sides badly injured on May 5-6.
While there are several factors at work behind the muscle-flexing by China, including the move to make

Ladakh a Union Territory

last year, its main military concern is India’s ongoing construction of feeder links and bridges to its new 255-km Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie road. The recent Indian decisions on scrutinising Chinese FDI and to woo businesses keen to relocate from the country, under the Atmanirbhar Bharat idea, is a serious strategic challenge.
The road, with 37 bridges, runs parallel to the LAC to provide Indian troops with much easier and swifter access to the Depsang and Galwan Valley areas while ending near the strategically-important

Karakoram Pass

.

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