This June 28, 2020, satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows the Galwan Valley along the border between India and China. The Chinese had expanded an outpost camp at the end of a long road connected to Chinese military bases farther from the border, according to experts (AP)
NEW DELHI: The top defence-security establishment in India plans to keep a hawk eye for any signs of Beijing not abiding by the phase-wise disengagement and de-escalation agreed to by Indian and Chinese military commanders on June 30. The process gathered momentum after a discussion between NSA Ajit Doval and Chinese foreign minister and state councillor Wang Yi on July 5.
If the dirt-track road the Chinese have built along the Galwan river all the way to the LAC is found to have been “black-topped” to asphalt in coming weeks, or if the People’s Liberation Army begins stocking up provisions and shelters for the winter, these would be read as indications the Chinese want to settle in rather than disengage, top-level officials in government here have told TOI.
For the present, after both sides arrived at an agreement at the military commanders meeting on June 30, the Chinese side, according to sources involved in the negotiations, is clearing out of areas covered by PP14, PP15 and PP17A, where, at last count, five structures had been removed.
On the northern bank of Pangong Tso, the Chinese have cleared out of three points on Finger 4, moved to Finger 5, but have held out on further disengagement on 3-4 points in the upper reaches there until “Phase 2” of the process. However, in the Depsang area, Indians continue to be physically prevented from patrolling areas which they used to. The Chinese have built a road up to the LAC and they now physically stop Indian foot patrols. That has not changed.
The careful monitoring of Chinese actions to see if they match pledges made in parleys is part of the drill the Indian side will follow given the extreme distrust that has crept into relations after the bloody scrum at Galwan on June 15 that left 20 Indian and an unspecified number of Chinese troops dead. Apart from monitoring of recently created buffer zones, Indian forces will keep a close watch on the Chinese build-up along the LAC.
The next round of WMCC (Working Mechanism on Coordination and Consultation) will meet this week, which will be followed by another meeting of military commanders to verify disengagement.
Another round of Ajit Doval-Wang Yi special representative talks is expected to take place in a fortnight. In a series of conversations with high-level functionaries engaged in managing relations with China, both on the ground and diplomatically, it is clear that the Indian government, at both policy and operational levels, regard the ongoing disengagement in eastern Ladakh as something that needs to verified at every step.
The disengagement process actually started on July 2. It was halted for the day on July 3, when PM Modi visited Nimu in Ladakh to meet soldiers with the visit intended to shore up morale and accuse China of “expansionism”. In fact, by the time Doval and Wang got talking on July 5, the disengagement was already underway.
In Naku La, Sikkim, which saw a clash on May 9, security sources said Indian troops were stopping Chinese patrols “at the watershed” and added that “Chinese claims of a stone wall being the boundary is nonsense. We even have accounts by an English adventurer well over a century ago recording this stone wall in India.”