By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times
ON THE WEB, 15 February 2021
The disengagement process in eastern Ladakh’s Panggong Tso area is in full swing, with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) knocking down military structures it had built since the border standoff began last May, people familiar with the developments said on Monday.
“PLA has removed a jetty near Finger 5 on the north bank of Panggong Tso. Some structures at a make-shift helipad are also gone. Observations towers, bunkers and shelters are being removed too. It’s part of the disengagement agreement,” said an official cited above.
Disengagement between rival soldiers deployed on heights on the north and south banks of Panggong Tso began on 10 February. The process will be over by the weekend, said a second official. Senior commanders of the two armies are likely to meet next week to discuss disengagement at other friction points in eastern Ladakh, the official said.
PLA is retreating to its base east of Finger 8 on the north bank of Panggong Tso, while the Indian army is moving back to its permanent position near Finger 3. Neither side will patrol the contested areas in between until an agreement is reached through future talks.
In a statement in Parliament on 11 February, defence minister Rajnath Singh said that structures built by both sides after April 2020 at heights on both banks of the lake will be removed. PLA had set up scores of structures in the Finger Area including bunkers, pillboxes, observation posts and tented camps.
Outstanding problems with PLA at Depsang, Hot Springs and Gogra – friction points on the contested border in eastern Ladakh – will be tackled after full disengagement in the Panggong Tso area.
The outstanding issues relating to deployment and patrolling at the three friction points will be taken up within 48 hours of pullback of troops in the Panggong Tso area.
India stood up to China! The Chinese tactic is to demonstrate overwhelming force to make the enemy cower to their apparent show of force and capitulate. This is how they salami slice territories or take over completely as they did Tibet.
Indian leaders of the past have often deluded themselves by believing the Chinese rhetoric that socialist countries don’t attack each other. Owing to such hallucinatory beliefs, the 1962 attack was a total bolt from the blue. India was utterly unprepared and it was humiliated as never before in its history.
Today, India showed that it had learnt lessons from its 1962 debacle and stood up to communist China. Even through there was no firefight between the two adversaries, India’s determination to defend its territory made the Chinese bulk and slink away.
India deftly played the “America card”. It started to lean more onto America with hectic meetings of officials at the highest level between the two nations. It showed to China that India’s “strategic autonomy” is not carved in rock and that it would shift as it sees fit.
For the Chinese, it is vitally important that India remains in the realm of isolation without aligning with any country. The last thing the Chinese want is India ganging up with the US against it. So, the amount of pressure the Chinese could exert on India had its own limitations.
The two armies had to endure a gruelling winter in the Himalayas. The Chinese PLA suffered more than the Indians because the Chinese army consists mostly of the Han ethnicity and they are not used to high altitude. The Chinese pulled back 10,000 soldiers in mid-January owing to the extreme cold. Indian forces constitute Tibetan fighters from the SFF and ITBP who are more used to high altitude had no such problems.