It will be one year since the standoff between the Indian and Chinese armies started. And, China has been able to prevail on the Indian Government in vacating the Kailash Range and thus giving away the only advantage it had over the PLA by dominating the depth locations. And it refuses to vacate four friction points.
“With superior infrastructure and resources the ability to deploy its troops faster, the advantage lies with the PLA for the time being. The issue of reduction of troops in depth areas is something to be reviewed with caution,” an Indian Army Veteran Lt Col Manoj K Channan (Retd), opines.
Sharing his views with Financial Express Online, the Indian Army veteran says “The official history notes that the Chinese had “succeeded in eliminating possible launch pads for any offensive against the Aksai Chin highway by eliminating DBO, Chushul and Demchok positions. It said that it “all the more strengthens the contention that Indians should have attempted to retain at least one jump off point Chushul”.
“It can be assessed that China will not allow India to build up any infrastructure which will threaten the disputed area of Aksai Chin, an area administered by the People’s Republic of China but also claimed by India, and its construction was one of the triggers for the Sino-Indian War of 1962. Originally made of gravel, it was fully paved with asphalt in 2013,” Lt Col Manoj K Channan, adds.
This also threatens the flank of the Indian Army in Siachen Glacier which the PLA may exploit in the days ahead. “The China Study Group under the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) should be overseen by the office of DMA / CDS to come to rationale and logical decisions which do not compromise any future course of action of the Indian Army / Defence Forces,” he suggests.
In conclusion, the Indian Army veteran says, “The Summers have just begun and it’s a long wait before winters set in and foreclose any options that the PLA may have up its sleeve.”
As reported in Financial Express Online earlier, the 11th round of talks between India and China held earlier this month remained inconclusive.
The focus of the talks was to resolve the 11-month long standoff in eastern Ladakh. And efforts were made during the discussion on April 9, 2021, to urge China to vacate two of the four original friction points.
Read: India-China border talks: 11th round of talks remained inconclusive
In March at the end of talks held under the framework of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC), each country agreed to continue their dialogue. And, to mutually acceptable solutions for complete disengagement from all friction points at the earliest.
At the end of a series of military and diplomatic talks, India and China had completed withdrawal of both weapons and troops from the North and South banks of Pangong Lake. This was in line with an agreement on disengagement.
Reports quoting sources have said that at the end of 11th round of talks, “China told India to be happy with the disengagement in the Pangong Tso Lake area.”
And, India, in an effort to bring down the tensions in the mountainous region, has been pushing for a faster disengagement process in areas like Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang.
Which are the friction points and why are they important?
China continues to have a platoon-level strength each, along with vehicles at two friction points, Patrolling Point 15 (PP15) in Hot Springs, and PP17A near Gogra Post. The soldiers were eyeball to eyeball when they came face to face in May 2020 along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh.
And the other two friction points were PP14 in Galwan Valley and the north bank of Pangong Tso. Last year, the Chinese troops had crossed the LAC at all these points and positioned themselves across.
More about PP15 and 17A?
As decided by the China Study Group (CSG), along the LAC, the Indian Army has been given certain locations where the troops have access to patrol. And these are known as Patrolling Points or PPs. And these are located on the LAC.
PP15 and PP17A are two of the 65 patrolling points in Ladakh along the LAC and reports indicate that some of these also have additional Alpha PPs. These are further ahead from the original PPs. This means that PP17A is different from, but is close to, PP17.
While PP17A is near an area called the Gogra post, PP15 is located in the Hot Springs, which is just north of the Chang Chenmo river, and the Gogra Post is east of the point where the river takes a hairpin bend coming southeast from Galwan Valley, before it turns southwest.
This area is close to the Kongka Pass, which is one of the main passes, and according to China this marks the boundary between the two countries. And, India’s claim of the international boundary is located significantly east, and it includes the entire Aksai Chin area as well.
And, according to officials, both Hot Springs and Gogra Post are very close to the boundary which is between two of the most historically disturbed provinces of China.
According to history, in 1960, Yang Kung-su, the Tibet Bureau of Foreign Affairs in the Chinese Foreign Office, had stated that the Western Sector of the boundary “is divided into two portions, with Kongka Pass as the dividing point” and the portion “which is north of Kongka Pass is the boundary between Sinkiang (now Xinjiang) and Ladakh. And the portion south of it is between Tibet and Ladakh”.
As far as the PP15 and PP17A are both located in an area where both India and China agree on the alignment of the LAC. During the initial rounds of discussion in June 2020 the focus was on disengagement of troops from PP15 and PP17A.
According to reports, following the Galwan Valley clashes, the two sides had during talks agreed to disengage from PP14 (Galwan Valley), PP15 and PP17A after the third round of meeting of the senior military commanders in June. However, though China pulled back its troops from PP14, it failed to complete the disengagement from PP15 and PP17A.