Top sources on Tuesday said it would take “sustained” dialogue at the politico-diplomatic level for China to move its over 25,000 soldiers from the Western Theatre Command, with tanks, artillery and other weaponry, back to their permanent locations in Xinjiang and Tibet.
The ongoing creation of ‘buffer zones’ is taking place at the immediate confrontation sites in eastern Ladakh under Phase-I of the de-escalation plan decided between 14 Corps commander Lt-General Harinder Singh and South Xinjiang Military District chief Major General Liu Lin on June 30, as was reported by TOI on Tuesday.
“But de-induction of PLA troops amassed in the depth areas along the 1,597-km frontier with China is a different matter. It’s highly unlikely to be within the remit of the South Xinjiang commander. The multiple incursions into Indian territory in May were after all cleared by the top Chinese leadership,” a senior military officer said.
The de-induction, which could easily stretch to September-October even if there are no more flare-ups, will have to be negotiated through further dialogue between national security advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, on the lines of the one they had on Sunday, or the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) between the two foreign ministries.
“Disengagement from forward areas is good for reducing tensions but the overall threat remains. There are no indications of any pullback of PLA troops along the LAC. Neither is there any reduction in the 30% to 40% additional deployment of fighters and bombers at Hotan and Kashgar airbases in Xinjiang,” a senior military officer said.
India has ‘mirrored’ the PLA deployments, with induction of over 30,000 troops and heavy weaponry all along the LAC in eastern Ladakh. Similarly, Sukhoi-30 MKI and MiG-29 fighters, Apache attack and Chinook heavy-lift helicopters are continuing with their round-the-clock operations after being inducted into forward air bases.
“Our troops will remain forward deployed till the PLA troops remain there. Our brigades (each has over 3,000 troops) are deployed from Daulat Beg Oldie in the north to Demchok in the south. Logistics to enable them to stay there till September-October are already underway,” the officer said.
India has a reason to be wary. The bloody clashes on June 15 at Patrolling Point-14 (PP-14) in Galwan Valley were, after all, triggered by the PLA reneging from the disengagement plan.
Incidentally, China had withdrawn its soldiers from a Galwan post in July 1962, only to launch a full-blown invasion on October 20 that year by killing 36 Indian soldiers. This time, a ‘buffer zone’ with no military presence has been created at PP-14, with both sides pulling back 1.5 km each. Similar arrangements are underway at the other ‘friction points’ of PP-15 and 17A in the Gogra-Hot Springs area, as was reported by TOI on Tuesday.