There was never a quid pro quo for China’s withdrawal of troops after three weeks of camping on a disputed plateau in eastern Ladakh. Such reports were disseminated in India by people who were “not in the loop,’’ because the overall relationship between the two countries was now moving on to a different trajectory, said informed sources.
All that the Chinese wanted after getting convinced to pull back their soldiers was the dismantling of a tin sheet put over a temporary arrangement mid-way between the Indian Tibetan Border Police tents (opposite the Chinese encampments) on the plateau and their regular positions further back, the sources insisted.
Even this tin sheet was put up three days after the Chinese incursion. The motive was to shelter soldiers in the inhospitable terrain as they marched to and fro from the tents put up 300 metres away from the ones erected by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). “It is extra cold out there. In fact, it is snowing there right now. The cover has now been taken off from the temporary structure,’’ they said.
The sources also refuted impressions about India having discovered the PLA tents after some delay. It was on April 15 – the day the Chinese set up tents – that an Indian patrol reported movement by PLA troops and an aerial reconnaissance the next day confirmed that they were here to stay.
On April 16, there was not much movement. A meeting of the joint mechanism on border issues was called but from the Indian perspective, there was no credible Chinese response. It was the same story during a couple of exchanges between the two armies.
Two days later, the government forsook the gradual approach of first arranging meetings between middle-level officers. Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai was asked to call in the Chinese Ambassador who was told that “whatever else can be discussed but we want status quo.’’ There was a false dawn a week later on April 25, with India getting the impression that the Chinese position had softened after several rounds of talks here, in Beijing and on the Depsang plateau. But flag meetings on April 26 and 27 showed there were still some gaps in the perception of both sides. The Indians also told the Chinese not to get into minutiae.
Keywords: Chinese incursion, Ladakh, Daulat Beg Oldi, India-China border, Line of Actual Control, PLA, ITBP, border dispute, Daulat Beg Oldi sector, ndo People’s Liberation Army, Tibetan Border Police, Kurshid China visit