But can we trust China ?
After ten months of eye ball to eye ball position the Indian and Chinese troops have decided to disengage at Pangong lake which has been the major basis of tension between two Asian giants. It may be a starting point for restoring peace in the disputed area. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh informed the Lok Sabha that both sides will cease their forward deployment on the north and south banks of the lake in phase, coordinated and verified manner. The Chinese Defence Ministry announced an agreement to start synchronized and organized disengagement. Both sides have agreed to temporary moratorium on patrolling in the disputed areas north and south of the lake. The withdrawal of armoury has started from Wednesday and the forces will start pulling back within two to three weeks. Chinese troops will return to their base east of finger 8 and Indian troops will return to their permanent base at finger 3. Earlier India use to patrol up to finger 8. But there is no motorable road access from India’s side to areas east of finger 4 whereas China has dominated up to finger 4 had built a road there and thus enjoy superior logistics. But now the entire disputed area from finger 4 to 8 will become a buffer zone and all temporary infrastructure built after April 2020 will be withdrawn. Both sides will also return to their bases south of the lake, where India will vacate the heights it occupied in an effective countermove in the Kailash range which gave India much needed upper hand to negotiate as well as demonstrated its resolve to match China’s action.
With this agreement the only pending problem according to some defence experts and analysts are smaller less concerning stand- off involving less troops in patrolling point 15 and 17 A in the Gogra hot spring area which will be taken up 48 hours after disengagement at Pangong lake in completed over the next few weeks. But some defence experts, analysts and veterans are also seeing the other side of the coin and terming this agreement as not a victory and given more than taken. Colonel (Retd.) RD Singh is of the opinion that India has lost its leverage by agreeing to vacate from the dominating Kailash heights similarly we are withdrawing from our own territory while China is going back from its occupied territory since April 2020. He also says that a moratorium on military activities including patrolling in areas which India was dominating before the Chinese aggression in 2020 is our loss. Dismantling of our defence structure and demobilizing troops armoured vehicles and guns which our soldiers did with great efforts and sacrifice is a setback for us” the veteran opined. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has also accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of conceding land to China. Addressing media persons on the issue he said that to say that Indian territory is up to finger 4 is wrong. Even the Line of actual control (LAC) asper the Indian perception is at finger 8 and India has been asserting right to patrol up to finger 8 he said. Rahul Gandhi also objected vacating Kailash heights which has given strategic dominance to India.
Defence experts are of the opinion that China can’t be trusted and can strike again any time it thinks that India is at weaker point so we should stand firm and strong against our belligerent neighbour. Army Chief General Manoj Naravane has also expressed deep concern at the behviour of China.” The rising foot print of China in India’s neighbourhood and its attempt to unilaterally alter the status quo along India’s disputed borders have created an environment of confrontation and distrust” he said. Another veteran Lt. General Ata Husain in one of his article appeared in a reputed daily has opined that by no yardstick the current situation can be termed conflict resolution. The final solution lies in confidence building through verification and consultation, a complete absence of rhetoric and resumption of full and formal contact at the diplomatic level.
The success of new disengagement plan as announced by Defence Minister will depend on whether it is implemented on the ground in letter and spirit. China has always been an unpredictable neighbour. The events of last year have left enormous distrust which remains a hurdle and China’s action on the ground have never matched its commitments which India has been witnessing since 1962.