At a time when the current ongoing stand-off at the Line of Actual Control border in Eastern Ladakh between the militaries of Asian neighbors India and China enter its seventh-month, Beijing has fired another shot by stating that New Delhi’s military is eager for disengagement out of fear of a winter war with the Chinese.
The latest set of comments, come at the back of reports suggesting that top commanders of both nations are closing in on a breakthrough in diplomatic talks to mutually disengage from the highly contested region.
After months of friction at the border and several rounds of diplomatic dialogue between higher officials belonging to the government as well as the military of both sides, it was suggested that two countries had considered a proposal for a phased disengagement of troops at key friction points in Ladakh sector.
According to the Indian daily, The Times of India, detailed arrangements were in place for a proposed disengagement plan under which both countries had “broadly agreed to pull-back troops, tanks, howitzers, and armored vehicles from ‘friction points’ in the Pangong Tso-Chushul area in eastern Ladakh”.
However, the reports were soon rubbished by Beijing-based experts who stated that it was yet another ploy by the Indian military, who are eager to leave their posts in the Ladakh region due to the onset of winter.
Qian Feng, Director, Research Department, National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, while speaking to Global Times, a daily newspaper under the auspices of Chinese Communist Party (CCP), said,
“The Indian military’s eagerness is understandable, as the weather in the stand-off area has become colder and it faces great pressure in ensuring logistical supplies. But this kind of “tip-off” is not good for the two sides to implement the consensus reached in previous rounds of talks, and could mislead opinion.”
Chinese troops had intruded 8 km into the Indian side of the LAC de facto border, with sources claiming that Beijing was ready to now moving its troops back to Finger 8, the original position of its troops before April of this year.
On the other hand, New Delhi had reportedly also announced its decision to restrict its troop positions to Finger 2 and Finger 3, and the stretch between Finger 4 and Finger 8 is likely to be declared a ‘no-patrol’ zone for both the armies.
However, according to Guo Yuandan and Liu Xin, writing for the Global Times,
“Indian media’s reports that detailed arrangements for a proposed disengagement plan are being discussed and finalized by Chinese and Indian militaries are inaccurate and not helpful for the two sides to reach their established goals,”
India has always had “unrealistic” ideas about the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and disregarded history, unilaterally believing that Fingers 4 to 8 are its patrolling areas, and has sought to gain bargaining chips in talks by fishing for interests in the disputed border area.”
Before the latest developments, the Indian military had left no stone unturned in prepping for a potential winter war in the testing conditions of the rough mountainous terrain of Ladakh, where temperatures dip well below minus 35 degrees Celsius.
New Delhi had deployed more than 50,000 troops on its side of the border, with an almost equal number deployed by the Chinese on the other side in a high state of combat readiness.
However, Qian states that the recent reports of disengagement are down to the Indian military’s unilateral thought process.
“The disengagement plan mentioned by Indian media is the media’s self-interpretation about the outcome of previous talks between the two sides. But it also to some extent reveals the actual unilateral thought of Indian militaries, however, it cannot represent the result the two sides have reached, nor will it be the final plan,” said Qian.