Next round of India-China talks looks positive on Gogra-Hot Springs
The 11th round of India-China military dialogue to be held this month is expected to record forward movement in disengagement of armies in the Gogra-Hot Springs area of East Ladakh, people aware of the development said, citing progress made by the two sides during the recent meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs.
“The WMCC meeting was positive…,” a top government official said, citing agreements between the two sides at the March 12 meeting to ensure stability in the Ladakh sector and convene the next meeting of senior military commanders. The meeting between Indian and Chinese diplomats was convened to ensure the resumption of the disengagement process that was stalled after the withdrawal of troops from Pangong Lake banks in February.
Senior military commanders of India and China last met on February 22, agreeing at their marathon 16-hour meeting to resolve outstanding issues in a “steady and orderly” manner. At the next meeting, the two sides are expected to discuss disengagement in the Gogra-Hot Springs area and restoration of unhindered patrolling rights in the Depsang bulge area.
A military commander said there were reports that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was moving heavy equipment from the Line of Actual Control to the PLA’s headquarters in Rutog county near the northern bank of Pangong Lake. But he cautioned that the PLA was concentrating its deployment in Tibet and Xinjiang region across the LAC through long term military plans.
Military officials, however, cautioned that there was a clear effort by the People’s Liberation Army to consolidate its hold in Tibet and Xinjiang regions through long term military plans.
The PLA has been moving heavy equipment to Rutog base in the occupied Aksai Chin area of the union territory of Ladakh, a senior military commander said, referring to a continuing effort to upgrade the military infrastructure in this region.
Indian national security planners noted that while the PLA has parked its heavy equipment in the depth areas at Rutog in Tibet and Xiadullah across Karakoram pass in Xinjiang, the new military infrastructure build-up allows PLA the capability to reach the LAC in a very short time. All the airbases servicing the east Ladakh region including Gar Gunsa in Ngari prefecture and Hotan airbase have blast pens, which protect fighters from bombing during an enemy attack.
The PLA has dug into the mountain faces and parked rocket regiments inside to ensure that they escape any attack at the hands of the Indian Air Force in the worst-case scenario. The Chinese airbases that have built blast pens include Hotan, Gar Gunsa, Lhasa, Yarkand and Kashgar airbases.
“It is quite evident that the PLA will monitor the LAC through electronic surveillance in the future with land force and air force kept on standby in the nearby bases. This way the PLA will not have to station its troops in very high altitude posts in subpolar temperatures while the capacity of the Red Army to deploy remains intact,” said a former Army Chief.
The PLA’s electronic surveillance of LAC through radars and sensors also became clear when a massive exercise to lay down optical fibres was carried out during the Chinese aggression in Gogra general area (also called patrolling point 17A). Radars and electronic surveillance equipment have also been placed at Tienweindien (TWD) post across the Daulet Beg Oldi sector with troops stationed at Xiadulla military camps.
The Chinese Army infra build-up along the 3,488-km LAC after its aggression on the north banks of Pangong Tso last May has been noted with concern by Indian military commanders as it will stretch the troops the year-round. The Indian Army has also prepared a counter plan where reserve forces are stationed near the LAC and are deployed through new roads, helicopters like Chinook or C-130 J aircraft in case of any conflagration.