India, China contemplate 3-step proposal to ease LAC standoff

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 11

To ease tension in eastern Ladakh, a three-step disengagement plan has been suggested. India is considering a proposal by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) asking the Indian Army and its troops to pull back from critical spots along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

If an agreement is reached, India will vacate the 13 spots it occupies along the southern bank of Pangong Tso. In response, the PLA will pull back from the spots on the northern bank of the same lake. However, the contentious 900 sq km Depsang plains in northern Ladakh, where both sides have claims and counter-claims, is not part of the proposal or the suggested pullback.

“It is a proposal, and not an agreement to disengage, let it be fine-tuned and matters to mature,” said a senior Indian Army officer.

The China Study Group (CSG), led by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, will consider the proposal but is likely to seek iron cast guarantees that the perception of the LAC — an un-demarcated boundary — will be respected.

Also, that the PLA troops will not reoccupy the heights India vacates south of Pangong Tso or those on the north bank or the points of disagreement at Galwan, or patrolling points 15 and 17.

The CSG will be discussing that the issue of entire 826-km LAC in Ladakh should be part of the same disengagement and de-escalation process and must include the Depsang plains.

It is here that the Chinese troops can threaten India’s access to the 255-km Darbuk-Shyok-DBO (DSDBO) road, which leads to Karakoram Pass and has an airfield next to it at an altitude of 16,800 feet.

India will convey its decision at the ninth meeting of the senior military commanders anytime next week.

More than 50,000 troops of each side face each other, accompanied by tanks, artillery guns, fighter jets and missiles, in the worst-ever border crisis since 1967 when both sides had exchanged fire.

Apart from the fatal Galwan clash in June this year, there have been hand-to-hand combat and firing in the first week of September. The night temperature in the area is minus 30 degrees Celsius.

How Delhi, Beijing plan to Disengage

Phase 1: Simultaneous withdrawal of tanks from forward locations along the LAC

Phase 2: Simultaneous withdrawal of troops — Indian troops will return to the Dhan Singh Thapa post located on Finger 3 (see map), north of the Pangong Tso

  • PLA troops will withdraw to Finger 8; the mountain spurs which descend into the Pangong Tso are identified as ‘fingers’

Phase 3 The Indian Army will withdraw from all 13 critical heights and territories, including Rezang La and Renchin La, along the southern bank of Pangong Lake which give India an edge over the Chinese troops

  • These were occupied in August and allow India to dominate Spanggur Gap under the PLA and also its Moldo garrison

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