China refuses to leave Hot Springs, Gogra but the Dispute at Despang is a bigger Worry
The standoff between India and Chinese troops at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh is more than a year old now. After eleven rounds of military discussions, the issue is yet to be resolved as the Chinese are reluctant to return to the troop locations before the start of standoff.
During the last round of talks at the Corps Commander-level on April 9, China has refused to pull back its troops from Hot Springs and Gogra Post which remain the friction points between the two sides. Both Indian and Chinese troops and armoured columns had disengaged on the north and south banks of Pangong Tso and the Kailash range earlier in February, a report in The Indian Express said.
A highly placed source, involved in decision-making all of 2020, told The Sunday Express that at Patrolling Point 15 and PP-17A in Hot Springs and Gogra Post, the Chinese “had agreed earlier” to pull back troops but “later refused to vacate”. In the recent talks, according to the source, China said India “should be happy with what has been achieved”.
At PP15 and PP17A, the source said, the current presence of Chinese troops is of “platoon strength”, down from the “company strength” earlier — an Indian Army platoon comprises 30-32 soldiers while a company consists of 100-120 personnel.
At Pangong Tso, though there is temporary suspension of patrolling by the two sides between Finger 4 and Finger 8 on the north bank, the source pointed out that India had not been able to reach Finger 8, which it says marks the LAC, for two-three years before the start of the standoff.
The situation at the Depsang Plains pre-dates the standoff. Indian forces, the source said, have not been able to access their traditional patrolling limits since 2013.The Depsang Plains issue, the source said, was added to the military commander talks “later”.
“Nothing happened in Depsang during this entire crisis. In Depsang, they (the Chinese) have been coming across and blocking our patrols at a number of these patrol points.” Chinese troops, the source said, “come every day in their (Dongfeng) Humvees, and just block that passage”.
“We have to be clear, we are not on solid footing as far as the alignment (of the LAC) is concerned” in Depsang. Indian troops, the source said, are being blocked in Depsang “since before 2013 as well and after that”.
“Depsang has been added to the friction areas so that it gets resolved. As of April 2020, the status quo has not changed in Depsang. It is an old issue, but we added that. Initially, it was not even being discussed. Around the fourth-fifth round (of talks), we thought let’s get this resolved as well. We felt Depsang could be the next flashpoint. That was our assessment. Why not get that resolved as well,” the source said.
Even during the height of the standoff last year, the Chinese, the source said, were “not organised” for combat except in the Pangong Tso region where there was “some deployment” on the north bank and in the Kailash range and “with their strength, they were actually trying to intimidate”.
Source: The Indian Express