India reaches compromise with China

Armies pull back from camp sites

India reaches compromise with China

Indian and Chinese troops on Sunday decided to pull back from their respective camp sites in Depsang plains in eastern Ladakh, ending the face-off which kept the two countries on tenterhooks for three weeks.

The sudden withdrawal was completed by 7:30 pm on Sunday, following tough high-level negotiations between the two sides and the fourth flag meeting at Chusul on Saturday.
The pullback came following another round of discussions between local military commanders.

Strangely, the Defence Ministry and the Army refused to confirm the withdrawal. Till the time of filing this report, there was no confirmation from the Ministry of External Affairs either. The government may make a statement in Parliament on Monday.

However, Press Trust of India has reported on troop withdrawal quoting “official sources” who confirmed an agreement was reached late on Sunday for both sides to pull back their troops simultaneously, and was completed at 7:30 pm.

But the stubborn refusal by the officials to even confirm what on the face appears to be a victory for Indian diplomacy gives rise to suspicions on the terms of agreement.

The concessions may involve Indian troops pulling back from their forward positions in some sectors close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

“The withdrawal leaves unanswered key questions. What Chinese demands did India accept. Has the People’s Liberation Army platoon retreated to its side of the LAC? Why has India withdrawn troops from its own areas,” security analyst Brahma Chellaney tweeted.

The Chinese intruded 19 km inside the Indian territory objecting to certain military installations in the proximity of the LAC and forward activity of Indian troops. The exact nature of those installations remains undisclosed.

The withdrawal may have salvaged the upcoming China tour of External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, which was meant for preparing the ground for the maiden India visit of new Chinese premier Li Keqiang, later this month.

As Chinese troops returned to their pre-April 15 position, Indian troops from Army’s Ladakh Scouts and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), too, returned to their base camps. The closest ITBP camp at Burtse is 15 km from the face-off site at Raki Nalla, which is a dry riverbed running parallel to the LAC. Last week, Army Chief General Bikram Singh briefed the Cabinet Committee on Security on the Chinese intrusion and issues that were discussed at the flag meetings.

The camp site is 40 km south east of Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), a World War II airstrip reactivated by the Indian Air Force in 2008 as part of India’s strategy to bolster border defence. China reportedly has objected to new constructions at the DBO, which lies just 10 km from the LAC and 80 km south of the Siachen glacier.

With the exception of Siachen, DBO is India’s northernmost military post, from which India can keep an eye on the strategically vital 15,937 ft high Karakoram pass. Close on the other side of the LAC are at least four known Chinese border defence regiment posts, two of which are at Chip-Chap (25 km from the LAC) and Sundo (40 km from the LAC).

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