What is the new disengagement agreement in eastern Ladakh?

  Feb 26, 2021

What is the new disengagement agreement in eastern Ladakh?

Q. What is the news?

Q. What is the new disengagement plan in eastern Ladakh?

The ground commanders have started meeting to figure out the nitty-gritty of the process.

Q. What does this disengagement process entail?

As of now, the disengagement process seems restricted to the north and south banks of Pangong Tso.

Q. Why is this area important?

Q. Why has this taken so long?

Since September, China has insisted that India first pull its troops back from the south bank of Pangong Tso, and the Chushul sub-sector. However, India has been demanding that any disengagement process should include the entire region, and troops should go back to their April 2020 positions.

However, it seems that for now both sides have agreed to first disengage from the Pangong Tso area only.

Defence Minister said, that in the military and diplomatic discussions with China since last year, “we have told China that we want a solution to the issue on the basis of three principles:

(i) LAC should be accepted and respected by both the parties.

(ii) Neither party should attempt to change the status quo unilaterally.

(iii) All agreements should be fully adhered to by both parties.

Also, for disengagement in the friction areas, he said, “India is of the view that the forward deployments of 2020 which are very close to each other should be pulled back and both the armies should return to their permanent and recognised posts”. 

Q. Does this mean that the standoff is resolved?

That’s a clear no.

Even Defence Minister said in his statement that “there are still some outstanding issues that remain regarding deployment and patrolling on LAC” and mentioned that “our attention will be on these in further discussions”.

“Both sides agree that complete disengagement under bilateral agreements and protocols should be done as soon as possible. After the talks so far, China is also aware of our resolve to protect the sovereignty of the country. It is our expectation that China will work with us seriously to resolve the remaining issues.” the Defence Minister said.

He also said that both sides have agreed that “within 48 hours of complete disengagement from Pangong Lake, senior commanders level talks should be held and the remaining issues should be resolved”.

The Pangong Tso region is just one of the friction areas. There are other friction points, all north of the Pangong Tso, where the troops have been face-to-face since last year.

Chinese troops had crossed the LAC in four other parts last year. Those were in Gogra Post at Patrolling Point 17A (PP17A) and Hot Springs area near PP15, both of which are close to each other. The third was PP14 in Galwan Valley, which became the site of the major altercation between Indian and Chinese troops on June 15, in which 20 Indian soldiers and an undeclared number of Chinese troops were killed.

The fourth, one of the most sensitive areas, that was not mentioned by Singh or by China in the new disengagement process is Depsang Plains, which is close to India’s strategic Daulat Beg Oldie base, near the Karakoram Pass in the north.

In this region, China, which has regularly patrolled till the bottleneck, or Y-Junction in the region, has blocked Indian troops from moving east to their patrolling limits. The bottleneck is around 18 kms west of the LAC, and lies just 30 km southeast of Daulat Beg Oldie.

Indian troops are unable to reach even their traditional patrolling limits at PP10, PP11, PP11A, PP12 and PP13. This line of patrolling is anyhow significantly deeper inside than the LAC. Senior security establishment officials, however, have been insistent earlier that the issue in Depsang Plains pre-dates the current standoff.

Q. What are the hurdles?

Two of the main stumbling blocks in finding a permanent resolution are lack of trust and no clarity on intent.