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Rediff.com  » News » The Illusion Of LAC Disengagement

The Illusion Of LAC Disengagement

By Lieutenant General PRAKASH KATOCH (Retd)
Last updated on: July 09, 2024 11:35 IST
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Disengagement from the LAC will remain a chimera because China has given enough indications that the PLA will not move back any more.

China has even deployed drones to monitor and deny any patrolling by Indian troops even in the buffer zones which are all in Indian territory, explains Lieutenant General Prakash Katoch (retd).

IMAGE: External Affairs Minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar meets his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of the annual Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, July 4, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo
 

The recent meeting between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Wang Yi, director of the foreign affairs commission of the Communist party of China's central committee at Astana, Kazakhstan, is making big news.

Different headlines read: 'Strategic India-China Dialogue', 'India-China Discuss LAC', and 'India-China Agree to Normalize Relations'.

Some reports have emphasized the 'warm handshake' between Jaishankar and Wang; although expressions of both in the photograph showing them shaking hands are somber or at best bland.

According to the media, Jaishankar met Wang on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit on July 4, 2024 and told him that India and China should redouble efforts for 'complete disengagement' of troops and restoring peace and tranquility on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as part of efforts to normalise ties.

Also, Jaishankar laid out India's imperatives for resolving the border issue, including respecting the LAC, and reiterated that 'mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interest' will continue to guide bilateral relations.

After the meeting, Jaishankar posted on X: 'Discussed early resolution of remaining issues in border areas. Agreed to redouble efforts through diplomatic and military channels to that end.

'Respecting the LAC and ensuring peace and tranquility in the border areas is essential. The three mutuals -- mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interest -- will guide our bilateral ties.'

A readout from the ministry of external affairs noted the two ministers agreed that prolonging the current situation in the border areas is not in the interest of either side, and said that Jaishankar had 'highlighted the need to redouble efforts to achieve complete disengagement from the remaining areas in Eastern Ladakh and restore border peace and tranquility in order to remove obstacles towards return of normalcy in bilateral relations'.

The two ministers 'agreed to continue and step up' meetings of diplomatic and military officials to take forward discussions to resolve the remaining issues at the earliest.

The MEA brief says much more but is this anyway different from coverage of the many meetings Jaishankar and Wang have had since China invaded Eastern Ladakh in April-May 2020? Besides, this particular meeting appears to be a casual handshake on sidelines of the SCO Summit in Astana.

Had it been a 'strategic India-China dialogue', as being trumpeted, photographs of the two ministers sitting together to discuss the same would have been flashed all over.

The fact is that India-China relations have deteriorated to such an extent that Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not want to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in person at SCO Summit in Astana.

Notably, at the SCO Summit in Uzbekistan (September 2022), attended by Modi and Xi, China distributed maps showing Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh as part of China and J&K as part of Pakistan, as tweeted by former Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy in 2022.

China is now assuming chairmanship of SCO.

The US played another card by sending the Nancy Pelosi-led delegation to meet the Dalai Lama in order to rile China.

This was despite the fact that the Pelosi delegation could have met the Dalai Lama when the latter was in the US for medical treatment.

China has given no comment on the instant Jaishankar-Wang meeting.

But on the boundary question, China has repeatedly been saying, that it does not 'represent the entirety of China-India relations, and it should be placed appropriately in bilateral relations and managed properly'.

Notably, China redrew the LAC in Ladakh in 2020, crossing West of its 1959 claim line which India had never recognised (external link).

Indian troops can't patrol 26 out of 65 patrolling points although these were established years back short of the LAC.

IMAGE: Indian and Chinese troops and tanks disengage from the banks of the Pangong Tso lake area in eastern Ladakh in February 2021. Photograph: ANI Photo

It does not matter that India denies any loss of territorial control in Ladakh and continues to ask for more and more military-to-military talks and Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination meetings in order to keep the public guessing.

China is happy with this because the PLA is well entrenched in the new locations that are being fortified further.

China holds all the aces having emerged as India's largest trading partner and benefiting $100 billion annually through bilateral trade with India.

Disengagement from the LAC will remain a chimera because China has given enough indications that the PLA will not move back any more.

China has even deployed drones to monitor and deny any patrolling by Indian troops even in the buffer zones which are all in Indian territory.

Lieutenant General Prakash Katoch (retd), PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SC is a former Special Forces officer.
He is a third generation army officer and participated in the 1971 India-Pakistan War and in Operation Bluestar.
He commanded a Special Forces Battalion in Sri Lanka, a Brigade on the Siachen Glacier, a Division in Ladakh and a Strike Corps in the South Western Theatre.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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Lieutenant General PRAKASH KATOCH (Retd)
 
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