One positive sign that has emerged from the sixth round of Corps Commander level talks between India and China in Ladakh is that both sides have agreed not to send more troops to forward areas. In talks that went on for 14 hours on Monday, the two sides in a joint statement agreed (1) avoid unilateral changes on ground, or any action that can complicate the situation, (2) avoid misunderstandings and misjudgments and strengthen communication to maintain peace (3) take practical measures to solve problems properly and jointly safeguard peace and tranquility and (4) hold the seventh round of military commander level talks as soon as possible.
However, there was no breakthrough on the issue of withdrawing troops from LAC. Indian army sources said that there was hardly any meeting ground between the two sides over the issue of disengagement and de-escalation. On the other hand, the Chinese PLA is using the cover of military and diplomatic level talks to carry out logistics build-up and beef up its troops near the border.
The PLA is demanding that India should first withdraw its troops from tactical heights that it gained on the southern bank of Pangong lake. Indian jawans are presently in control of several tactical heights on the ridgeline stretching from Thakung near southern bank of Pangong lake to Gurung Hill, Spanggur Gap, Magar Hill, Mukhpari, Rezang La and Reqin La. From these heights, Indian troops can keep watch on Chinese positions, roads and the Chinese military garrison in Moldo. India has demanded that China should disengage its troops from Depsang, Pangong lake and Gogra Hot Springs, but the Chinese army is unwilling.
It is always difficult to fathom Chinese intentions that are mostly wrapped in the cloak of mystery. It can talk of peace and tranquility, but at the same time, can also send its troops armed with iron clubs and steel rods to attack Indian jawans. At the United Nations, the Chinese President Xi Jinping said “China has no intention of fighting either a Cold War or a hot war with any country”, but in Tibet adjoining Ladakh, its army has amassed stealth jet fighters, bombers, attack helicopters and a huge concentration of troops to intimidate India. The problem with the Chinese communist leadership is that neither the Chinese people trust its intentions nor has China able to garner support at world forums despite pumping in billions of dollars as loans to poor African and South American countries.
The Chinese economy is in bad shape and China is almost isolated in the world because of its questionable role in spreading Covid-19 pandemic. Exports from China are down, industries and businesses are closing down and Xi’s political rivals are secretly gunning for him. In order to divert the attention of Chinese people, Xi opted to ratchet up border tension with India in order to take advantage of Chinese nationalistic sentiments.
The problem with China is that it failed to intimidate India near the LAC by committing transgressions and is now facing the might of Indian armed forces, both on land and in air. Xi Jinping has drawn his army into a trap from which it is difficult to retreat. That is why, the Chinese PLA is unwilling to withdraw from its positions in Depsang, Pangong and Gogra Hot Springs. If their troops withdraw, they will have to face ignominy before their own countrymen.
The only point agreed upon during talks was that India and China will not send more troops to forward areas. Xi Jinping’s problem is that the Chinese army has stretched itself too much and it badly needs a face-saving device. That is why, China is insisting on Indian troops to withdraw from the tactical heights in Ladakh that its brave jawans achieved in a single night.
In Monday’s commander level talks, India bluntly told China that mere talks will not do, because China has not been fulfilling the promises that it had made in earlier talks. The Indian side insisted that China, in a time-bound manner, must agree to status quo ante, the position where its troops were stationed in April this year. This is the only way to reduce tensions completely. It is because of India’s firm stand that the Chinese President had to tell at the UN that it does not want to create tension, nor does it seek a war.
If the first step towards not sending fresh troops to forward areas is implemented, one can hope that tensions near the LAC in Ladakh may gradually subside provided that no fresh friction takes place. Our army jawans will not lower their guard, and all the preparations and deployment will still be in place. China cannot be trusted, until and unless it pulls out its troops from forward areas, and our army confirms that it has done so.
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