Disengagement agreement in Pangong Tso region

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS 2 –  India and its Neighborhood- Relations. 

Synopsis: Both India and China have agreed to withdraw troops from Pangong Tso region. Both the countries will return to the position of April 2020 (before the stand-off took place). 

Introduction: 

As per the agreement reached by the 9th corps commanders meeting on 24th January, both Indian and Chinese troops began systematic disengagement on the northern and southern banks of Pangong Tso located in eastern Ladakh. 

Background: 

pongong tso

Source: Indian Express  

  • The North and South banks of Pangong Tso are one of the most sensitive points. These points mark the onset of the standoff that began in May 2020. 
  • During the stand-off, Chinese troops marched to the ridge line of finger 3 and 4. Whereas, India’s perceived LAC (Line of Actual Control) was at finger 8. 
  • In August 2020, India obtained some strategic advantage in the region by occupying certain peaks. After that, Indian troops start positioning in Magar Hill, MukhpariGurung Hill, etc. It pressurized China to enter into a negotiation.  
  • Recently, India and China finally reached an agreement on disengagement at Pangong Lake.  

About the agreement: 

  1. The agreement calls for disengagement along the Pangong Tso region. It includes the pulling of tanks and troops from both sides.
  2. The forward deployment will return to pre standoff status quo in a gradual manner, along north and south banks. 
  3. In the north bank, China will pull back to finger 8 and India will get back to its Dhan Singh Thapa post near finger 3. 
  4. The area between finger 3 and 8 will become a no patrolling zone for a temporary period. 
  5. Any construction done post-April 2020 is to be removed by both sides.

Significance: 

  • The agreement is expected to restore the pre-standoff position and sustain peace in the region. 
  • It would be an initial step. Based on that, future negotiations will take place.  

Concerns in negotiation: 

  • There is a lack of trust between both India and China. It will prevent the attainment of lasting peace in the region. 
  • The probability of escalation of violence by China still persists. For example, Both the countries involved in the Galwan Valley clash after a pull-back of their troops in June 2020.   
  • Pangong Tso is just one point of friction. Focus on other areas is also required. Else the efficacy of this disengagement would also be questionable. The other areas that require focus, are:  
    • Gogra Post at Patrolling Point 17A (PP17A)  
    • Hot Springs area near PP15 
    • PP14 in Galwan Valley 
    • Depsang Plains, which is close to India’s strategic Daulat Beg Oldie base

Way forward: 

  • The focus should now be on the disengagement and gradual withdrawal in the entire region, not only the Pangong Tso region 
  • The unresolved issues must be solved based on 3 principles: 
    1. Mutual acceptance and respect of LAC 
    2. No unilateral alteration of LAC 
    3. Mutual adherence of bilateral agreements 
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