India-China disengagement: Analyses of the four main drivers to have ushered this detente – Part 1

( A Candid Analyses Shows That The Brave Indian Military Operating In Combination with The Formidable Himalayas Has Shown Tactical Resilience As The Main Driver To Have Compelled The PLA To Blink And Withdraw To Pre-April 2020 Positions)

Visuals of PLA vacating Pangong Tso position

Tactical Resilience

1. Breaking of the Covid-19 Pandemic in late 2019 from Wuhan, China; coincided with their well-orchestrated belligerence all across the globe. The Chinese had ingressed across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the guise of normal patrolling, but thereafter continued to stay. Whereas the Indian Army had reduced activity due to the break out of the pandemic. It is only in April 2020 that the Indian army realised that the PLA had occupied disputed areas surreptiously instead of withdrawing as was the norm. This thereafter, triggered mass mobilisation of the Indian army to counter the PLA, which had already mobilised as a planned induction in an earlier time frame under the guise of carrying out exercises. Undoubtedly, the PLA had achieved strategic surprise. But in spite of all the preparations, superior numbers, the Galwan and the Pangong Tso clash, only gave them a taste of the resilient Indian army. The PLA soon realised that the brave Indian soldiers in combination with the formidability of the rugged Himalayas and that too in the High Altitude regions, was an entirely different ball game. This got further confirmed with the out manoeuvre carried out by the Indian Special Forces at Pangong Tso. On the other hand there were many reports of the PLA’s inability to survive in such a hostile envioronment.Very soon the PLA realised that the combat ratios required to defeat the Indian army was at least six times more than that of the defender. The swift mobilisation of Indian reserves from the Indian western borders and now towards the LAC only reinforced the Chinese belief that they had bitten more than what they could chew. Thus the result was that the Chinese blinked and became ready to withdraw. Historically, similarities can be drawn with the Chinese earlier misadventures, in conflict with Vietnam and the former USSR, where their nose was also blooded. Hence the Indian resilience has definitely triggered this disengagement as being the dominant driver.

Talks towards Further Disengagement: Disadvantage India

2. The 9 th round of talks between the two militaries at last resulted in the process of disengagement in two parts as was declared on 10 th /11th February 2021.The first part would cover the Pangong Tso (both North and South Banks) and that the next phase for disengement would be decided depending on the progress of the first part. The next round of military talks will see a discussion on Patrolling Point 17 and the Gogra-Hot Springs areas where the number of troops involved is less and where Indian soldiers have taken positions that will be seen as “intrusions” by the Chinese. A bigger discussion awaits on the Depsang Plains where Indian patrols are being obstructed. The argument that no relaxation should have been permitted at Pangong Tso without Depsang being resolved is already creating prolongation of talks beyond 28 February 2021.Obviously, the Chinese as it appears now, are no more in a hurry to withdraw from the Depsang plains (972 square kilometre area at over 16,400 feet), which any military mind will consider as the most crucial area, (being plain and tankable), in this entire Ladakh sector, because of its proximity to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor(CPEC) and the Karakoram Highway. India has been thus disadvantaged in the remaining talks of disengagement. The Chinese will now negotiate from a position of strength as the strategic Kailas Mountain Heights at Pangong Tso South have already been vacated by India as the first part of the package deal, which again appears to have been strategised to hoodwink the Indian diplomacy.

Negotiations for Depsang Plains should have been done from a position of strength instead, rather than rushing for any misleading peace deal.

The Crucial Depsang Factor

3. The Depsang Plains come under India’s Sub Sector North (SSN) and as elsewhere, the LAC here is disputed. The SSN is sandwiched between the Siachen Glacier on one side and Chinese-controlled Aksai Chin on the other. The area has seen two major standoffs between Indian and Chinese forces in 2013 and 2015. The Chinese have been blocking Indian patrols, which go by foot beyond the feature called the Bottleneck area or Y Junction. The Chinese have been blocking India’s patrol from bottleneck areas to PP11, PP12, PP12 A and PP 13. The location is also strategic as Chinese side can use its units there to interdict and cut off road access to the DBO airfield as well as the Karakoram pass. Indian Territory under threat includes the camp at Burtse and the Raki Nalla area while the build-up has been observed at a feature known as bottleneck.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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