India-China Border Row: disengagement continues with verified checks amid trust deficit with China

India is keeping a vigilant eye on the mutual disengagement underway between Indian and Chinese soldiers in the Pangong Tso area near LAC in Ladakh, tallying it with the phased pullback of forces as specified in the written agreement signed by the two countries last week.

By Harkirpal Singh, Updated : Feb 15, 2021 13:29 IST
India-China Border Row: disengagement continues with verified checks amid trust deficit with China
Chinese PLA & Indian Army

According to defense sources, India is keeping an eagle-eye on current disengagement which is going on between Indian and Chinese soldiers in the Pangong Tso area of eastern Ladakh, Indian side is making sure that the disengagement is carried in accordance with the manner specified in a written agreement signed by the two countries last week.

The disengagement on both sides of Pangong Tso is progressing well so far, it is slightly ahead of schedule in some positions. The effort is to complete this Phase-I of disengagement by February 20,” a senior military official said on Sunday.

India insisted on a written pact for the Pangong Tso disengagement, which was given a green light by the country’s high-powered China Study Group just before the disengagement started on February 10, due to the continuing trust deficit with China.

Also Read- India-China Border Row: After disengagement at Pangong Tso, Defense Ministry focuses on other friction points

A senior official said, “The formal agreement details the exact steps each side will take for complete Phase-I disengagement. Each step is being verified both physically on the ground as well as through electronic surveillance through drones, including quadcopters, and satellites,” 

It was planned that Within 48 hours of completing the Pangong Tso disengagement, India and China will hold the tenth round of corps commander-level talks to focus on the strategically-located Depsang Plains as well as the continuing ‘friction points’ like Gogra and Hot Springs.

Another military officer added, “Patrolling Points 15 and 17 at Hot Springs and Gogra are unlikely to pose a major problem. They are relatively fewer soldiers in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation there. But Depsang, where the two sides have amassed infantry brigades and tank regiments, will be quite tricky,”

It is widely believed among the Indian defense circle that India should have leveraged positions occupied by the Indian Army at the Kailash range heights last year for negotiations on the Depsang friction point. 

Also Read- India-China Border Row: After IAF inducts more Rafale Jets, PLAAF begins readying its J-20 fighter jets

Instead of losing these tactical heights just for the Pangong disengagement pact, India could've used this advantage to settle other friction points. But the government says that Depsang is an old, complicated issue that has to be resolved separately.

Under the current disengagement pact, both armies have already withdrawn their tanks, howitzers, and other heavy weapons from the south bank of Pangong Tso-Kailash range in the Chushul sector. Now, reducing the number of troops is taking place in different stages.

Indian Army had proactively taken six to seven tactical heights on the ridgeline stretching from Thakung to Gurung Hill, Spanggur Gap, Magar Hill, Mukhpari, Rezang La, and Reqin La (Rechin mountain pass), in end-August.

In the scramble for the heights along the Line of Actual Control which reported at least four incidents of warning shots being exchanged, PLA had also taken a couple of features like Helmet Top and Yellow Bump. According to defense sources, these heights on the LAC had been left unoccupied since the 1962 war due to a mutual understanding.

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