Context: In an agreement reached between India and China on June 6 for a partial disengagement of troops from some of the points of stand-off along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is a step in the right direction.
- India has been upgrading its infrastructure along the border, thereby allowing troops to patrol with greater depth and frequency into areas where the Chinese had advantage.
- People’s Liberation Army was “tightening control” in one of the flashpoints in Galwan Valley in the western sector, after it accused India of “unilaterally” changing the status quo by “illegal construction”.
- A build-up has also been reported in Demchok in Ladakh.
- Separately, troops from both sides were involved in fisticuffs that led to injuries following stand-off incidents on May 5 near the Pangong Tso lake in Eastern Ladakh and on May 9 in Naku La in North Sikkim.
Key takeaways from agreement: One important takeaway from the talks that could have a long-lasting impact is a proposal that the Corps Commanders have formal meetings once or twice a year for better interaction between the two armies at a higher level.
- The first step: Both sides identified five locations of conflict in the western sector in Ladakh — a separate ongoing stand-off in Naku La in Sikkim was not on the agenda.
- The five spots include Patrolling Points 14, 15 and 17, Chushul, and the north bank of Pangong Lake.
- Serious differences on Pangong Lake, which may require another round of higher level talks at the Corps Commander level.
- India’s condition for deescalation: India has made clear it will accept nothing less than restoring the status quo ante.
- It will not dilute its build-up in the area until and unless China draws down the artillery, bombers, rocket forces, air defence radars and jammers that it has amassed behind the frontlines on its side of the LAC.
- India has correctly made clear it will not stop construction activity on its side of the LAC, which it is entirely entitled to.
If there is one thing that the recent tensions have made clear, it is the urgent need for better communication to address the strategic mistrust that prevails on both sides of the LAC.