TOPIC: General Studies 2
- India and its relations with China
In News: India and China reached an agreement on disengagement of troops from the north and south banks of the Pangong Lake in eastern Ladakh. This is the first significant movement in negotiations to ease tensions in at least eight months — disengagement in Galwan valley took place in early July 2020 but it did not progress in other areas.
Six months after PLA troops came in 8 km west of the point which India says marks the Line of Actual Control on the north bank of Pangong Tso to trigger a military standoff in Ladakh, China has proposed moving its troops back to Finger 8, and return of troops by the two sides to their original locations on the south bank of the lake.
The proposal also includes moving back tanks and artillery to the depth areas on either side to reduce chances of any incident in a region where tensions are already high, and troops are battling the harsh Ladakh winter.
Under the agreement, both sides will cease their forward deployments in a phased, coordinated and verified manner in these areas.
- India has not conceded anything while entering into the disengagement process. However, there are some outstanding issues with regard to deployment and patrolling at some other points along the LAC in eastern Ladakh.
- The Chinese side will keep its troop presence in the North Bank area to east of Finger 8. Reciprocally, the Indian troops will be based at their permanent base.
- A similar action would be taken in the South Bank area by both sides.
These are mutual and reciprocal steps and any structures that had been built by both sides since April 2020 in both North and South Bank areas will be removed.
This is the second attempt to disengage frontline troops to resolve the standoff that began last May. Disengagement in Galwan valley took place in early July, but it didn’t progress in other areas. India has consistently pushed for comprehensive disengagement at all friction points and restoration of the status quo ante of early April 2020.
In June, 20 Indian soldiers were killed when the two sides clashed with iron rods and stones in the Galwan Valley, the first combat losses on the border in 45 years. China also suffered an unspecified number of casualties.
Where have the incidents (army clashes) happened?
- The Pangong lake in Ladakh
- Naku La in Sikkim
- Galwan valley and Demchok in Ladakh
Why did the face-off occur?
- Non-Demarcation of LAC: LAC that has never been demarcated. As a result, India and China have overlapping claim lines along LAC which leads to such clashes
- Non-implementation of protocols: Additionally, the Protocols agreed to in 2005 and 2013 regarding rules of engagement to prevent such incidents, have not always been adhered to.
Why has not the LAC been clarified?
- India has long proposed an exercise to clarify differing perceptions of the LAC to prevent such incidents.
- The exercise could pave the way to regulate activities in contested areas until a final settlement of the boundary dispute.
- Maps were exchanged in the Middle Sector, but the exercise fell through in the Western Sector where divergence is the greatest.
- China has since rejected this exercise, viewing it as adding another complication to the on-going boundary negotiations.
What is the state of boundary negotiations?
- In 2005, an agreement on political parameters and guiding principles completed the first of three stages of the talks.
- The 2005 agreement said both sides “shall safeguard due interests of their settled populations in border areas”.
- The current, and most difficult, stage involves agreeing a framework to resolve the dispute in all sectors.
- The final step will involve delineating and demarcating the boundary in maps and on the ground.
What are the prospects of a settlement?
- The likelihood appears remote.
- The main differences are in the Western and Eastern sectors.
- India sees China as occupying 38,000 sq km in Aksai Chin. In the east, China claims as much as 90,000 sq km, extending all across Arunachal Pradesh.
- One particular sticking point appears to involve China’s claims to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, which has been increasingly raised by China in recent years
- A swap was hinted at by China in 1960 and in the early 1980s, which would have essentially formalised the status quo.
- Both sides have now ruled out the status quo as a settlement, agreeing to meaningful and mutual adjustments.
- At the same time, the most realistic solution will involve only minor adjustments along the LAC, considering neither side will be willing to part with territory already held.
What is the Strategic Calculation behind boundary dispute?
- India insists that its relations with China won’t improve fundamentally until the border dispute is resolved
- China appears to view an unsettled border as holding some leverage with India, one of the many pressure points it could use to keep India off-guard
- Any movement toward disengagement is good, but it has to be real and sustained, and verified not just in Pangong but eventually elsewhere as well. It can’t be China pretending to disengage and India pretending to believe it.
- Some experts opine that China must withdraw to a distance from where swift build up is not possible. De-escalation of the military build-up to a sufficient depth is more critical than disengagement. On the other hand, China is building villages on our borders. It‘s a ploy as those villages house soldiers. These areas will serve as logistics hubs to support future ingress and will minimise troop build-up signatures
- This will not only avoid a continued decline of Sino-Indian relations but also ease tensions along the border, and reduce the possibility of friction and conflict in the short term.
Connecting the Dots:
- India must reset the terms of its economic reliance on China. Suggest steps.
- Panchsheel agreement between India & China in 1954