India-China deal on Gogra, Hot Springs likely soon

India, China could reach an agreement for disengagement at the next round of talks, say officials.

July 25, 2021 07:27 pm | Updated July 26, 2021 09:39 am IST - NEW DELHI

Tanks pull back from the banks of Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh on February 10, 2021. Photo: Indian Army via AP

Tanks pull back from the banks of Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh on February 10, 2021. Photo: Indian Army via AP

India and China are set to hold the 12th round of Corps Commander-level talks aimed to resolving the standoff in Eastern Ladakh soon and an agreement for disengagement at Gogra and Hot Springs is likely to be reached.

China had suggested July 26 as a possible date but Indian side had conveyed that the day being Kargil Vijay Diwas, it wouldn't be convenient. Fresh dates are expected to be agreed upon soon.

Explained | The disengagement plan between India and China along the LAC

“The situation on the ground is stable. There have been no attempts to reoccupy the peaks vacated. The sense is they (China) are ready to disengage from all places. We got positive inputs and it will happen,” a senior defence official said. “We continue to talk at all levels.”

The two sides are also looking at a Major General level talk to be held after the 12th round of talks, a second official said.

Since the standoff began, the two sides have also held 10 Major General level talks, 55 Brigadier level talks and around 1,450 calls over the two hotlines. India and China have two hotlines for communication at Chushul and Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO).

Friction points

While disengagement has been completed on both banks of Pangong Tso in February , other friction points that remain to be resolved are Gogra and Hot Springs, Demchok and Depsang. The buffer zones established in some places as part of earlier talks remain in place. “Buffer zone varies from place to place,” the first official said.

In Eastern Ladakh, India and China have two mutually agreed disputed areas — Trig Heights and Demchok — and 10 areas of differing perception. Officials said since the stand off last year, additional five friction points have emerged. These include Km 120 in Galwan area, Patrolling Points (PP) 15 and PP17 and Rechin La and Rezang La on the South Bank of Pangong Tso, the second official said.

Also read: India, China to continue military talks on LAC disengagement

“China wants de-escalation first and disengagement later which is not acceptable to India as they can bring back troops and equipment much faster then we can do,” the second official said. Some of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) peace locations are located as far as 3,000 km from the LAC, but they can mobilise much faster, the official said.

Access issues

For India, the area is cut off for several months a year which is not the case with China. Both the Zozila and Rohtang passes were kept open longer than usual last year due to the standoff and are available for 7-8 months. Construction work on several tunnels is underway on a priority basis including at Baralacha La and Tanglang La among others, the officials said.

Stating that they have a clear picture of what the PLA is doing and they have vacated and gone back in some places, the official said China has not increased its troop levels since the standoff began but has rotated its troops. The PLA, too, is closely watching the movements of the Indian military. “We have about 1000 vehicles going up and down the Rohtang axis everyday,” the official added.

However, at least two officials said the Line of Actual Control (LAC) will not become like the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan with very close deployments by both sides.

“The LAC will not become like the LoC. But the force levels have gone up as the trust is lost. All agreements are broken,” the first official stated. New protocols have to be worked out once de-escalation is complete, another official stated.

Troop rotations

China’s present focus is on rotation of troops, training and a major focus on construction activities along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh as well in other areas. India too is focussing on upgrading defence works, induction of new generation equipment and operational logistics for winter stocking while pushing for the 12th round of Corps Commander talks, the official stated.

On the PLA deployments and rotations, official said while Indian Army has been used to long deployments in high altitude areas, the PLA is not. Last year the PLA troop rotation in Rechin La and Rezang La on the South Bank of Pangng Tso was around 7-10 days, the first official said.

India is looking for comprehensive de-escalation of the situation in Eastern Ladakh which includes disengagement from all friction points, de-escalation and working out of new protocols, the officials added.

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