‘Disengagement activities’ for reducing Sino-India tensions

Synopsis: India and China have simultaneously begun disengagement activities around the Pangong Tso region in eastern Ladakh. It is a laudable step for reducing tension between the two countries.

Background:

  • The two countries were undergoing severe tensions since May 2020. It is when the Chinese army entered 8 km inside Eastern Ladakh.
  • This Chinese encroachment along east of finger 8 along the LAC (Line of Actual Control) led to unprecedented clashes. The most severe was the Galwan valley clash that caused casualties at both ends.
  • Almost 10 months after the first clash, China agreed to enter into a conciliatory agreement.

About the agreement:

  • It calls for a systematic and coordinated withdrawal along the northern and southern banks of Pangong Tso region.
  • China has to pull back its troops at Siriraj, east of Finger 8 and dismantle infrastructure created after April 2020.
  • India has to return to its Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3.
  • A temporary moratorium on patrolling activities has been imposed along the northern bank of Pangong Tso.

Reasons behind China’s altered stance:

  • First, good diplomacy was shown by the Indian government that didn’t surrender to Chinese demands.
  • Second, a strategic advantage was gained by Indian army at Kailash heights in the southern bank which enhanced its bargaining power. 
  • Third, China realized that a long stand-off will only hamper bilateral relations and would give little gain.
  • Fourth, the growing closeness of India-US and their greater engagement in the QUAD group, might have pressurized China to alter its stance.
    • Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) is an informal group of the US, Japan, India and Australia. The group aims to maintain a rules based order in the Indo-Pacific region.  

Way Forward:

  • The agreement must be implemented in letter and spirit to re-instill the lost trust between the countries.
  • The focus should be on doing robust verification and monitoring in order to ensure its effective implementation.
  • The success of this disengagement agreement will also open gates for negotiation on other friction points like Hot Springs and Depsang plains.
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