The disengagement proposal involves the Chinese troops moving back to Finger 8 areas from their current position at Finger 4 on the north bank of Pangong lake while the Indian troops position themselves close to the Dhan Singh Thapa post
NEW DELHI: Expectations of a breakthrough in the more than six-month-old military standoff between India and China have gained ground with both countries closely examining a proposal that looks at a “sequential disengagement" of troops currently involved in an eye-ball-to-eye-ball confrontation in eastern Ladakh
The proposal to ease tensions in areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) including and along the northern and southern banks of the Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh, seen as a majorly contentious friction point between the two countries, was proposed by the Chinese side in the last meeting of the senior military commanders on 6 November, one of two people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
The development comes as soldiers of the two countries face off against each other in icy cold weather conditions in the mountains in Ladakh where temperatures have already touched minus 20 degrees Celsius.
According to the proposal, the first step involves both sides moving tanks, artillery guns, armoured vehicles and large equipment from the friction points along the LAC, the first person cited above said.
The second step involves the Chinese troops moving back to Finger 8 areas from their current position at Finger 4 on the north bank of Pangong lake while the Indian troops position themselves close to the Dhan Singh Thapa post. The mountain spurs jutting into the lake are known as Fingers. Both sides are looking at withdrawing around 30% of the troops every day for three days. According to a second person familiar with the matter, the Chinese will also remove all tents, observation posts and other infrastructure set up in the eight kilometre area between Finger 4 and 8. A third person in India’s security establishment said the Dhan Singh Thapa post is situated between Fingers 2 and 3 but closer to the latter. The area between Finger 3 and Finger 8 could be seen as a buffer zone with neither side patrolling it, the second person said. India used to claim territory up to Finger 8 and patrol till there though it used to hold territory up to Finger 4 before Chinese troops took up positions at Finger 4.
As part of the third step, the two countries will undertake disengagement of troops on the south bank of Pangong Tso. It was here that Indian soldiers had taken vantage positions on the heights of mountains including Mukhpari, Rezang La and Magar in late August, catching the Chinese troops off guard.
"These are all proposals. There is no agreement signed yet," said the first person cited above. More talks are expected to take place in the coming days, the person said.
For India, “verification is priority" said the second person pointing to a violent clash that took place on 15 June between Indian and Chinese troops after the Indian side insisted that the Chinese stick to the terms of a disengagement process agreed to on 6 June. Twenty Indian troops and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed in the clash that also resulted in heightening levels of mistrust between the two sides.
There was also the challenge posed by difficult terrain on the Indian side, the second person said pointing to the almost flat Tibetan plateau on the Chinese side while on the Indian side, the terrain was mountainous.
“The next round of talks (between the military commanders in the coming days) will focus on working out the modalities of the sequential disengagement and verification on the ground," the second person said. “Verification of each step will be foolproof," and will include the use of drones besides other means, the second person added.