India-China troops’ disengagement along LAC a ‘Test Match, not Twenty20’
Senior army officers on Thursday said disengagement of forward deployed Indian and Chinese forces from friction areas along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC) would be a “cumbersome and long-drawn process”, responding to some news reports of a slight retreat by both armies in Galwan Valley.
Disengagement of forces has not begun, said one of the officers with direct knowledge of the border row.
“You can say it’s going to play out like a Test match and not T20 cricket. It will be a cumbersome, complicated and long-drawn exercise,” he said, asking not to be identified.
Senior Indian and Chinese military commanders reached a consensus -- during an 11-hour meeting on June 22 -- on disengaging from friction points along the LAC, which has been tense since a brutal brawl in Galwan Valley on June 15 led to 20 Indian and an unspecified number of Chinese soldiers dead.
“Consensus doesn’t mean the ground situation will change overnight. It may take weeks, or even months, for the border to become stable,” said the second officer cited above, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.
There was no official word from the army on the disengagement process even as army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane flew back from Leh to New Delhi on Thursday after conducting a detailed security review of the Ladakh sector over two days. Top officials briefed him on the latest developments along the LAC.
Both officers quoted above said the Indian Army had raised its guard, and was planning and preparing for the long haul. Disengagement will be carried out in phases across different sectors on a verifiable basis, they said.
Experts agreed with their assessment of the border row, marked by a significant military buildup on both sides of the LAC at multiple locations -- especially in Depsang, Gogra Post-Hot Springs, Galwan Valley and Pangong Tso.
The disengagement process will be “tough and complex” beyond the shadow of a doubt, said former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda (retd).
“The Indian Army will have to keep its guard up at every stage of the proposed disengagement. We will have to move ahead with caution, given what happened in Galwan Valley during a previous disengagement exercise,” Hooda said.
China has not halted — and instead ramped up — its military activity along LAC in eastern Galwan Valley, with a concentration of soldiers, military vehicles, earth-moving machinery, and erection of structures, including near the same point where Indian and Chinese troops clashed on June 15, HT reported on Thursday. Satellite images of the area on June 22, reviewed by China watchers and officials, suggested Chinese buildup in Galwan Valley, where the Indian army observed that a new structure, suspected to be an observation post, has come up near Patrol Point 14, the site of the June 15 clash.
The Chinese buildup in other areas along the LAC, including Depsang, Gogra Post-Hot Springs and Pangong Tso, has not thinned either, people familiar with developments said. The army is keeping a strict vigil along the LAC and is fully prepared to respond to any provocation or adventurism by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), they added.
While disengagement in Gogra Post-Hot Springs and the Galwan Valley sectors is believed to be a “low-hanging fruit” and can possibly be achieved in a reasonable time-frame, the “real test” would lie in the restoration of status quo ante in the Finger Area in Pangong-Tso, where the PLA has set up permanent bunkers, pillboxes and observation posts, they said.
China has deployed more than 10,000 troops in its “depth areas” across the LAC in eastern Ladakh and the military buildup consists of fighter jets, helicopters, tanks, artillery guns, missile systems and air defence radars. India has matched the neighbour’s military moves.