2 years after clash, no end in sight to LAC stand-off

Updated on Jun 14, 2022 04:55 AM IST
The disengagement process between India and China has been deadlocked since the two countries pulled back frontline troops from the Gogra-Hot Springs sector in August 2021.
The clash left 20 Indian soldiers and an undisclosed number of Chinese troops dead. (PTI)
The clash left 20 Indian soldiers and an undisclosed number of Chinese troops dead. (PTI)
By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Two years after Indian and Chinese troops clashed in Ladakh’s remote Galwan Valley, the two nations are still in talks to reduce the tension along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), but an early resolution to the lingering 25-month standoff is nowhere in sight although both Beijing and New Delhi agree that the ongoing dialogue will help achieve disengagement from all friction points, officials familiar with the developments said on Monday.

The Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have so far held 15 rounds of talks between corps commanders — 14 of these after the Galwan Valley skirmish — to resolve the standoff. These talks have led to partial success in disengaging rival soldiers from some friction areas on the LAC.

The June 15, 2020, Galwan clash was the first deadly skirmish along the LAC in five decades, and the trust deficit it created continues to haunt the ongoing dialogue, said one of the officials, asking not to be named. The clash left 20 Indian soldiers and an undisclosed number of Chinese troops dead.

“As long as talks are on, some forward movement in disengagement can be expected. It’s hard to give a timeline for comprehensive disengagement,” said a second official, also declining to be named.

India and China didn’t make much headway in another round of diplomatic talks on May 31 on the LAC standoff, agreeing only to continue discussions on outstanding issues and to convene the 16th meeting of military commanders at an early date.

The disengagement process between India and China has been deadlocked since the two countries pulled back frontline troops from the Gogra-Hot Springs sector in August 2021. The two nations have been locked in a border row since early May 2020, and despite disengagement of soldiers from Galwan Valley, Pangong Tso and Gogra-Hot Springs area, both still have around 60,000 troops each, and advanced weaponry deployed in the Ladakh theatre.

Problems at Patrol Point-15 near Kongka La, Depsang Bulge in Daulet Beg Oldi sector and Charding Nullah Junction (CNJ) in Demchok sector are still on the negotiating table.

“We are now coming up to the second anniversary of the deadly Galwan clash. If there is one important lesson from this incident, it is that when a large number of troops face off against each other and CBMs (confidence-building measures) break down, conflict becomes more likely, even if it is not intended,” said former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda (retd).

With the Chinese not moving ahead on the disengagement and de-escalation process, the risk of some local clash occurring remains, Hooda added.

Indian soldiers, led by Colonel B Santosh Babu, fought off numerically superior Chinese troops in the seven-hour conflict near Patrol Point 14 in Galwan Valley two years ago. Babu, then 37, was among the 20 Indian soldiers killed in action.

Babu, the commanding officer of 16 Bihar, and five other soldiers who displayed outstanding courage during the skirmish were awarded wartime gallantry awards. Over the past two years, India and China have hardened their stance on the LAC, with increased military activities on both sides of the boundary, deployment of modern weapons, infrastructure development, and a series of combat manoeuvres by their armies.

In May, army chief General Manoj Pande said the Indian Army aimed to “re-establish trust and tranquillity” with PLA, but cautioned that “it can’t be a one-way affair.”

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