New Delhi: China has proposed a slew of steps to ease tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, which includes withdrawing tanks and artillery guns from the forward areas back to their peacetime locations, Indian troops vacating strategic heights in the southern banks of Pangong Tso lake and making Finger 4 in the northern banks a no-go area.
The proposals, which ultimately aim to give Beijing a tactical advantage, come as China continues with its extensive construction activity in forward locations to house troops and equipment brought in for the winter.
India has also been carrying out a massive construction programme to cater to its troops in the high altitude region, where temperatures drop down to minus 30 degrees Celsius.
Sources in the defence and security establishment told ThePrint that some of China’s demands were made over a period of time and have been rejected by India.
However, in the last Corps Commander level meeting held on 12 October, the Chinese side presented a consolidated proposal to ease tensions. Since then, China has refused to finalise the date for the next round of talks.
On its part, the Indian side demanded that disengagement happen from all friction points, including the Depsang Plains.
China, though, is focussed only on the Southern banks of Pangong Tso and is offering partial withdrawal from northern banks as a sweetener.
“The proposals put forward by China works in their favour and is aimed at them getting a tactical advantage. They have asked us to withdraw from the strategic heights at Southern banks. They will then withdraw from the Black Top and areas around it. Why should India withdraw first from strategic heights which were occupied by us as a counter (to) Chinese aggression,” a source said.
“They demanded this again during the 12 October talks and we have told them clearly that the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) did the aggression first in other areas and they should withdraw from there first,” the source added.
India’s strategic counter
A second source pointed out that another of China’s proposal, made during the same 12 October meeting — to pull back tanks and artillery guns — cannot be met since Beijing cannot be trusted.
“They want the tanks and artillery guns to go back to peacetime locations from the southern banks area and other places. In some places, the distance will be 10 km and at other places 20 km and more. Chinese have plainer terrain on their side and better infrastructure. This means that they can come back faster than us if they decide to do so,” the second source said.
The source added that there is no question of this happening because it will give away India’s current advantage.
“The artillery guns have moved forward from normal positions to the actual operational gun positions. What the Chinese are demanding is that de-escalation should happen first. This means that equipment brought forward moves back. What India is insisting upon is that disengagement should happen first. This means that troops in face-off with each other at different locations should step back first,” the source said.
Another proposal by China calls for Indian troops to limit their patrolling till Finger 3 in the northern bank of Pangong Tso lake and the Chinese will limit their patrolling till Finger 5, sources told ThePrint.
“The Chinese want to show as if they are doing us a favour by moving back to Finger 4. We have made it clear that Chinese will have to go back beyond Finger 8 which is the LAC. Why should we limit patrolling to Finger 3 when LAC is at Finger 8,” the second source said.
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