Following the disengagement dialogue between India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, both Indian and Chinese troops have reportedly moved back by 1.5-2 kms from the flashpoints of Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Hot Springs and Gogra Post. According to sources, China has pulled back from Finger 4 to Finger 5 and India from Finger 4 to Finger 3 in Pangong Tso.
On the northern bank of Pangong Tso, mountain spurs extend out like a palm on the lake, with protrusions which appear like fingers. India controls finger 1 to 4 and claims its territory to be till finger 8. China on other hand claims its territory till finger 2. In May, the Chinese troops occupied the area between Finger 4 and Finger 8 and prevented the Indian troops from patrolling the area.
“Post 1962, the LAC (Line of Actual Control) runs west of Finger 8 in Pangong Lake. The ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) used to patrol up to Finger 8. This claim of ours hasn’t (been challenged) since 1962. However, the PLA has changed its version over the years,” said Lt Gen (R) HS Panang.
The present disengagement is being seen as a setback to India as analysts have voiced concern that by stopping India to patrol till Finger 8 there has been a change in the status quo and a considerable loss of Indian Territory.
In a statement released by India both sides have reaffirmed in a meeting of WMCC (Working Mechanism for Consultation and Co-ordination) that they “will ensure complete disengagement of the troops along the LAC and de-escalation from…border areas for full restoration of peace and tranquillity in the border area”. The statement said that the two sides had agreed it was essential to maintain “enduring peace and tranquility” along the border for overall development of bilateral ties. While “peace and tranquillity” are essential at the border, one must also remember that “Good fences make good neighbours”. Since occupying swathes of land belonging to India in 1962 China has been trying to push its boundaries and lay bold claims to many other areas that enjoy India’s sovereignty. Disengagement from Finger 4 to Finger 3 and from other positions earlier held by India has only pushed India further back. Under the terms of disengagement buffer zones of 1.5-2kms have been created on the flashpoints i.e. areas on the Indian side of the LAC now occupied by China with China only pulling back just a little from what it additionally occupies and India moving further back from positions it was reduced to after Chinese incursion. In other words, China takes two leaps forward and one step back while India thinks it can make progress with one step backwards.
One would question why the buffer zones were not created wide enough to include the Chinese side of LAC? Why did India accept to China continuing to occupy the Indian Territory while India pulled back from areas it already controlled? As per sources, India expects China to vacate all other areas it occupied since April/May after a series of further dialogues between the two sides on disengagement and de-escalation. India must not forget that China, historically, had clashed at Galwan Valley, pulled back before waging a full war in 1962. Would it not have been better for India to capitalise – on the brave resistance put up by our soldiers at the border on June 15, on the increasing pressure built up on China in international corridors with Japan’s agreement, America’s support? A loss of ties on economic front was also beginning to concern China. India appeared in a bargaining power and could have insisted on better terms to ensure “peace and tranquillity” at the border. A total disengagement by China was what was expected to stand true to Modi Government’s promise that “sacrifice of Indian soldiers will not go in vain”.