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China’s untenable demand to resolve Pangong standoff



New Delhi: In a seemingly untenable demand to de-escalate matters in the Finger areas of Pangong Tso, China is believed to have proposed that Indian forces move back to Finger 2 as a pre-condition to Chinese troops withdrawing to Finger 6. At present, both sides are in a standoff at Finger 4.

China, sources said, is making unacceptable demands while the Indian position has been consistent that status quo ante has to be restored as the PLA has been the aggressor by moving its troops forward and setting up infrastructure across the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

A third round of Corps Commander-level talks is planned for Tuesday between 14 Corps Commander Lt Gen Harinder Singh and his Chinese counterpart Maj Gen Liu Lin. These talks will take place at an Indian meeting point in Chushul.

The ground situation in Eastern Ladakh has remained unchanged for several weeks now with thousands of troops locked in a standoff and talks yielding little results.

Sources said there has been no reduction of troops at friction points along the LAC and disengagement will be a prolonged process.


No Change in Troop Buildup

The standoff could stretch on through the winter but talks would continue, they said.

The Finger area is a series of spurs that rise along the bank of the Pangong lake, with the Indian perception of the LAC lying at Finger 8. The disputed area between Finger 4 and 8 — over 50 sq km — used to be patrolled by both sides.

However, in an aggressive move, China moved in soldiers and equipment to Finger 4 since late April, cutting off Indian access and unilaterally changing the ground situation. Over the past month, it has built several dozen defences and hundreds of structures between Finger 4 and 8, in gross violation of all border protocols and agreements.

Sources said that Chinese demands are untenable as the change in status quo was carried out by the PLA and Indian troops did not try to alter ground positions. In addition, moving back to Finger 2 would involve dismantling of two Indian military camps on the banks of the lake. Moreover, the Indian claim is till Finger 8, and anything short of restoring that would not be acceptable.

Also, the ground position of PLA troops does not match what was agreed to during the last two rounds of talks. In Galwan, Chinese troops remain dug in and the troop buildup in the rear has not been dismantled.

At Finger area too, there have not been signs that the Chinese troops are pulling back – satellite images show defensive structures both along the banks of the lake and at the ridgelines. The first attempt to de-escalate at Galwan, which was agreed to at a Corps Commander-level meeting on June 6, ended in disaster when a skirmish took place on June 15 in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed along with an undeclared number of PLA troops, including the Commanding Officer.

India is approaching all promises of disengagement by the Chinese side with extreme caution after the skirmish.


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