Tackling China in Eastern Ladakh was the biggest immediate concern with which India stepped into 2021. The friction was over six months old by then. India had warned Beijing of an adverse impact on the overall bilateral relations due to the ongoing tension. Eight rounds of Corps commander-level talks and almost an equal number of diplomatic-level talks had taken place by the end of 2020 but to no avail.
The first breakthrough came in February 2021. Out of the over five friction points, the two sides agreed to disengage at Pangong Lake. In his statement in Parliament, defence minister Rajnath Singh said, “Disengagement in the Pangong lake area envisages that both sides will cease their forward deployments in a phased, coordinated and verified manner… These are mutual and reciprocal steps and any structures that had been built by both sides since April 2020 in both the North and South Bank area will be removed and the landforms will be restored.”
However, this development did not ensure a swift follow-up on other friction points. The build-up of troops on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) remained and there were no signs of de-escalation. With a stubborn China indicating that it would brazen it out, the first-ever QUAD summit, though virtual, came as a welcome counter for India.