Road ahead from Gogra: On India-China border issue

Source: The Hindu, Indian express

What is the news?

After the talks on July 31, India and China have taken one more step towards restoring peace and normalcy on the LAC by disengaging at patrolling point 17A at Gogra post. However, it is viewed as a faint beginning of the process to disengage.

It took 12 military talks  to see both sides disengage and put in place buffer zones in the Galwan Valley, the site of the June 2020 clash that marked the worst violence since 1967.

The next round of talks will discuss PP15 in Hot Springs.

What is meant by disengagement?

Disengagement means that troops of the two armies deployed at the point will no longer be eyeballing (staring) each other, a situation that could quickly go out of control as it did in the Galwan Valley last year.

Things agreed to

Both armies are said to have removed all their temporary structures from near PP17A. As at Galwan and Pangong, a mutually agreed no-patrolling zone has been created, and the troops have fallen back to their respective bases.

Issues that remain
  • Demchok, where China has transgressed in relatively smaller numbers than the deployments seen in Pangong Lake, also remains unresolved.
  • Beijing has appeared unwilling to discuss the strategically significant Depsang plains, where the Chinese side has been blocking Indian patrols.  Considering that the relatively flat terrain of Depsang makes it vulnerable to an offensive, and the Chinese posturing in this area poses a threat to the strategically important Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie Road, resolving differences in this area is what actually matters now
  • The buffer zone model is a temporary measure and India should not accept as permanent as it would prevent India from enforcing its territorial claims and favour the PLA which can deploy faster in larger numbers owing to more favourable terrain and better logistics.
Way forward

There is a need to come up urgently with new protocols and confidence-building measures, as both sides gradually resume patrolling in the buffer zones. Full de-escalation, along with the withdrawal of some new forward deployments that have come up close to the LAC will be an important to push for resolution.

Conclusion

There is a need to come up urgently with new protocols and confidence-building measures, as both sides gradually resume patrolling in the buffer zones. De-escalation of troops is need of the hour. Unless that happens reduction in India-China tensions, will remain elusive goals.

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