De-escalation in Pangong Tso, Depsang still some distance away | India News

NEW DELHI: Military de-escalation in Pangong Tso, Depsang and other areas of eastern Ladakh is still some distance away, with India and China yet to fully agree on modalities and time-lines for the stepwise process that should eventually also lead to de-induction of massive troop and weapon deployment along the unresolved border by the two sides.
“Detailed proposals, options and concerns” on troop disengagement and then de-escalation were discussed threadbare in the marathon meeting led by 14 Corps commander Lt General Harinder Singh and South Xinjiang Military District chief Major General Liu Lin.
The intensity of the complicated hard-nosed negotiations, compounded by the huge “trust deficit” after the June 15 bloody skirmishes, can be gauged from the fact that the meeting that began in Chushul at 11.30 am on Tuesday finally ended at 2 am on Wednesday.
The two sides took back each other’s proposals to their politico-military hierarchies for a review and authorisation to finalise a roadmap for phase-II of the proposed de-escalation plan after concrete disengagement is first achieved on the face-off sites, said top government sources.
In New Delhi, Army chief General M M Naravane held “internal deliberations” with his top officers on Wednesday morning, which were then followed by a meeting of the high-powered “China Study Group (CSG)”, which included National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and external affairs minister S Jaishankar in the evening.
The CSG, an apex policy group of the government in existence since the mid-1970s, also includes the foreign, defence and home secretaries and director of the Intelligence Bureau, among others. It has got activated after the major troop confrontation on LAC in Ladakh in early-May, which is the worst border row with China since the 1962 war.
Sources said the meetings on Wednesday discussed the proposed roadmap for the sequential disengagement, de-escalation and de-induction process. “It will be a long haul. The immediate priority is to first properly disengage at Pangong Tso and Depsang, and then follow it with some de-escalation through the thinning out of the large number of forces in the depth areas,” said a source.
As reported earlier by TOI, while the temporary no-patrolling disengagement zones between the rival troops have been established at the face-off sites in Galwan Valley, Hot Springs and Gogra, the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at the Pangong Tso and Depsang is much more hotly disputed between the two sides. Consequently, the disengagement process is that much harder to finalise in these areas.
India wants the over 3,000 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers on the north bank of Pangong Tso to move 8-km back to their permanent locations at Sirijap-I and II east of the ‘Finger-8’ (mountainous spur) area, where it says the LAC runs north to south.
As of now, PLA troops have only moved back from the face-off site at the “base” of ‘Finger-4’ to ‘Finger-5’ and have also not fully vacated the ridge-line that dominates the area. Indian soldiers, in turn, have pulled back westwards towards their Dhan Singh Thapa post between ‘Finger-2’ and ‘Finger-3’.
Similarly, the PLA continues to block Indian soldiers from going to their traditional “Patrolling Points” 10, 11, 12 and 13 in the Depsang Plains — a strategically-located table-top plateau to the north of Galwan — after intruding deep into what India considers its territory.
India wants “business as usual” to be restored at Depsang, where the perception of LAC widely varies between the two sides, with no blocking of each other’s patrols in the area.
The long-term aim, of course, is to gradually de-induct the around 30,000 troops each amassed, along with artillery guns, tanks and other heavy weaponry, by the two sides in the “depth areas” along the 1,597-km long frontier in eastern Ladakh. “The two armies should eventually move their additional forces back to their permanent locations to restore the status quo as it existed in April,” said another source.

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