India, China complete troops disengagement process at Patrolling Point 15
India and China on Tuesday pulled back their troops and dismantled respective temporary infrastructure to complete the process of disengagement at Patrolling Point 15 Gogra-Hotsprings at the LAC in Eastern Ladakh, six days after the two sides announced their intention to resolve another friction point, which is expected to create an amicable atmosphere on the eve of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Uzbekistan.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping are attending the two-day summit starting on Thursday.
“Both sides have completed disengagement at PP15 in a phased, coordinated and verified manner, resulting in the return of the troops of both sides to their respective areas, said government sources. It is learnt that both armies will go back to their respective positions held before the May 2020 stand off at the LAC in Eastern Ladakh. The dismantling of the temporary structures on both the sides of the LAC was also mutually verified, said government sources.
With the agreement not mentioning the ‘buffer zone’ (a term Chinese use) like it was in the disengagements achieved last year for friction points at Pangong Lake and PP 17(A), there appears to be no moratorium on patrolling at PP15 Gogra-Hotsprings, government sources explained. Understanding on patrolling at PP15 might have been achieved between the commanders of the two armies on the ground, government sources believe.
‘No unilateral change’
The Ministry of External Affairs, in a statement released a day after the announcement of disengagement, had stated that the “agreement ensures that the LAC in this area will be strictly observed and respected by both sides, and that there will be no unilateral change in the status quo”.
Army officials were unwilling to reveal the size of troops deployed at the PP15 but stated that it varied depending on the situation and mirrored the Chinese strength in that region of the LAC—spread over approximately an area of 150 kilometers (50-70 kilometers).
This is the first of the two other phases that India and China have concluded to restore lasting peace and confidence at the LAC in Eastern Ladakh. The two nations have still not arrived at a consensus for ‘de-escalation’, which means the troops’ post disengagement have to move to their barracks, and ‘de-mobilisation’ which happens when all the friction points in the entire disputed theatre get mutually sorted out.
While the government sources see the latest breakthrough achieved during the 16th round of talks between the Corps Commander of Indian and Chinese armies on July 17, 2022 as a step towards “easing of tension” at the LCA, the real test would be to resolve more complex friction points at Demchok and Depsang regions.
The MEA stated that Prime Minister Modi is likely to hold a few bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the SCO Summit but did not specify the names of the countries.
September 13, 2022