After ten months of standoff and nine rounds of negotiations between the Corps Commanders, India and China have reached a consensus on modalities of disengaging the troops from the Pangong Tso area.
“Better ten years of negotiations than one day of war”, said Andrei Gromyko, a renowned Soviet diplomat who served during World War II.
After ten months of standoff and nine rounds of negotiations between the Corps Commanders, India and China have reached a consensus on modalities of disengaging the troops from the Pangong Tso area. The armies of the two countries were locked in a faceoff ever since the deadly Galwan incident in June 2020.
“The success of ongoing negotiations leading to the withdrawal of armies will somewhat restore faith in the existing bilateral mechanisms for border-talks. The two sides need to strengthen these mechanisms further to avoid any repetition of incidents like Galwan,” opine experts.
What did the Defence Minister say in the Parliament?
On Thursday, defence minister Rajnath Singh informed the Parliament that “We have agreed that both sides should achieve complete disengagement at the earliest and abide fully by the bilateral agreements and protocols.”
This has been possible because of India’s sustained talks with the Chinese side as well as well thought out approach. He assured the Parliament that India has not conceded anything, though there are still some outstanding issues which are regarding the deployment and patrolling at some other points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh.
According to the minister, these issues will be the focus during further discussions with the Chinese side.
In his statement the defence minister stated that both sides have reached an agreement to disengage in the North and South Bank of Pangong Lake, and a meeting to be called within 48 hours after the complete disengagement in the Pangong Lake Area.
According to the minister the meeting of the Senior Commanders within 48 after disengagement will address remaining issues.
What does this mean?
Both India and China have agreed to disengage in the Pangong Tso Lake area envisages. That means the two sides will cease their forward deployments in a phased, coordinated and verified manner.
While the Chinese side will keep its troop presence in the North Bank area to east of Finger 8, and in reciprocation the Indian troops will be at their permanent base at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3.
And, according to the defence minister Rajnath Singh, a similar action would be taken in the South Bank area by both sides.
Any structures that had been built by each side since April 2020 in both North and South Bank areas are going to be removed. And, the landforms are going to be restored.
It has also been agreed to have a temporary moratorium on military activities by both sides in the North Bank, and this includes patrolling to the traditional areas.
And, the patrolling will be resumed only after an agreement is reached in diplomatic and military talks which will be held subsequently.
According to the defence minister Rajnath Singh the implementation of this agreement started on Wednesday (February 10, 2021) in the North and South Bank of the Pangong Lake. And, it will substantially restore the situation to that existing prior to commencement of the standoff last year.
Prof Rajan Kumar, School of International Studies, JNU, says “ This agreement underlines three points in particular: the two sides want to avoid any further escalation of conflict; second, they are capable of negotiating even on the trickiest issues; and finally, the bilateral mechanisms available for negotiations have served them well.”
According to Prof Rajan, “Border negotiations are often very difficult and tortuous- especially when two symmetrical powers are involved. The best strategy is to keep the channels of communications open to dispel misunderstandings and avoid any undesirable conflict. It was partly due to the breakdown of communication that the Galwan incident happened. This one incident had put a question mark on the efficacy of bilateral mechanisms, and years of border-negotiations between the two countries.”
“The primary reason for conflict between the two parties is the development of border-infrastructure. It creates suspicion and security dilemmas on the other side. As it stands, there will be no let-up in the infrastructural activities from either side. Therefore, tension will persist even in future unless they devise methods to keep the other side informed,” Prof Rajan concludes.
Sharing his views with Financial Express Online, Lt Col Manoj K Channan (Retd) says, “This is a step in the right direction to de-escalate, and bring back normalcy on the Line of Actual Control. The Military – Diplomatic efforts have brought about this change. It is anticipated that this will be in a phased manner in which Armour and Artillery units will be pulled back to depth locations.”
“However, as the Defence Minister in his statement in the Parliament has stated that the withdrawal has commenced on both banks of the Pangang Tso; what remains ambiguous is the deployment on the Kailash Range and the withdrawal of troops in the Depsang Plains in particular the Daulat Beg Oldie, something which is to be observed over the next few days,” the Indian Army veteran observes.
In conclusion Lt Col Manoj K Channan says, “The reasons of the change in stance of the PLA/CCP can be attributable to many factors, main reason is that the PLA is a conscript army and the troops had no experience in the high altitude desert which led to a loss of morale, as their conscription period was increased to match the Indian Army’s deployment. The moral ascendancy of the Indian Army at the LAC enforced the CCP/ PLA leadership to take steps in the right direction.”