PLA pulls back from Galwan clash siteApprox Read Time: 7 minutes
- Three weeks after the worst military clashes in decades, India and China have begun the process of disengagement at contentious locations along the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Chronology of events in Ladakh (western sector of LAC):
- In early May, the Chinese side started to hinder India’s normal, traditional patrolling pattern in the Galwan Valley area, which resulted in face-off.
- The face-off was addressed by the ground commanders as per the provisions of the bilateral agreements and protocols.
- Then, in mid-May, the Chinese side sought to change the status quo in other areas of the Western Sector, by moving troops in large numbers into certain areas like the Galwan valley and Pangong Tso.
- Subsequently, India had registered protest on the Chinese actions through both the Diplomatic and Military channels, and made it clear that any such change was unacceptable.
- To resolve this, the Corps Commander level met on 6 June 2020 and agreed on a process for de-escalation and disengagement along the LAC that involved reciprocal actions.
- Both sides had agreed to respect and abide by the LAC and not undertake any activity to alter the status quo.
- Yet, on 20th June, the Chinese side departed from these understandings in respect of the LAC in the Galwan Valley area and sought to erect structures just across the LAC.
- When this attempt was failed, Chinese troops took violent actions on 15 June 2020 that directly resulted in casualties.
- Thereafter, both sides remain deployed in large numbers in the region, while military and diplomatic contacts are continuing.
- To deescalate the situation, two more rounds of Corps Commander level talks between the Indian and Chinese commanders took place, with the third meeting on 30th of June.
Talks between SRs:
- On 5th of June, Special Representatives (SRs) on the boundary talks Ajit Doval and Wang Yi held talks to resolve boundary tensions.
- After the talks, it was suggested that both were keen to put an end to the serious troop build-up along their contentious boundary.
- Statements of both the sides stressed the need for a “complete” disengagement along the LAC.
- The Indian MEA, in a statement, said that both the sides should strictly respect and observe the LAC and should not take any unilateral action to alter the status quo and work together to avoid any incident in the future that could disturb peace and tranquility in border areas.
- India has consistently said its troops are aware of the LAC alignment and China must restore the status quo as it existed before the build-up of tensions.
- Post the talks, the disengagement process commenced, with Chinese troops moved back some distance and dismantled tents at some locations along the LAC.
- In the Galwan Valley, Chinese troops have shifted 2 kilometres from the site of the June 15 violent clashes at Patrolling Point (PP) 14. Temporary structures are being removed by both sides. A ‘buffer zone’ has already been created at PP-14 in the Galwan Valley.
- The PLA had moved well within India’s perception of the LAC in the Galwan Valley after the June 15 incident, when 20 soldiers were killed.
- India had matched China’s presence with bunkers and temporary structures and the two armies were in “eyeball to eyeball” positions.
- Some rearward movement of vehicles is seen at the general area of Galwan, Hotsprings and Gogra.
- Some tents had been removed by the PLA in the Finger 4 area of Pangong Tso and the PLA has moved back some distance.
- Pangong Tso is one of the most contentious areas of the current stand-offs, with the PLA moving about 8 km inside up to Finger 4.
- India’s claim is till Finger 8 as per the alignment of the LAC.
Process of de-escalation:
- After the third round of talks, the two military commanders indicated that de-escalation will be a long-drawn process in several phases.
- First the de-escalation would take place at all the friction points — Galwan, Pangong Tso, Hot Springs — and then “depth areas” such as Depsang plains in the north, where China had amassed troops, would be looked into.
- The setting up of the no military presence buffer zones at all flashpoints in the high-altitude region, depending on the terrain and mountain features in each area, will mark the completion of Phase-I of the proposed de-escalation.
- The mutual troop pullback in Phase-I includes dismantling fortifications and other structures built over the last two months.
- There will then be a ‘stabilisation period’ of three to four weeks for each side to monitor the progress and resolve any lingering issues through more meetings to bridge the huge trust deficit between the two armies.
- Further diplomatic and military talks will be held for the eventual de-induction of the rival military build-ups along the LAC.
- If everything goes well, the final de-induction is expected to take place by September-October.
De-escalation at Pangong Tso might be the most difficult:
- Pangong Tso continues to be a major concern.
- Around 3,000 PLA troops have built a large number of fortifications as well as taken the dominating heights after occupying the entire 8-km stretch from Finger-4 to 8 on the lake’s north bank since early-May.
- PLA troops, for now, will only move back to Finger-5 instead of going back to their permanent locations east of Finger-8 towards its Sirijap bases.
- Though India remains firm the LAC runs north to south at Finger-8, the short-term aim is to first ease the heightened tensions, and reduce the scope for violence by creation of buffer zones.
India very cautious, will verify each Chinese step:
- India is being extremely cautious this time and will verify each step with physical monitoring on the ground as well as through drones and satellites.
- This is because a similar de-escalation had gone wrong on June 15 after PLA went back on the agreement to dismantle an observation post on Indian territory near PP-14 Galwan valley.
- Also, China has started claiming the entire Galwan Valley in recent days.