Context: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to intensify efforts for expeditious disengagement and de-escalation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, the spotlight is now on the exact contours of plans being drawn up by military commanders on the ground to pull back troops.
About the Depsang Plains issue
- The Depsang Plains issue began in 2013 when China carried out an 18-km incursion in the area.
- The Depsang Plains are located close to the strategically important Daulat Beg Oldie.
- At the Depsang Plains, Chinese troops have been blocking Indian access to PPs 10 to 13 from a bottleneck known as the Y-junction as well as the 972 sq km tract of land there.
- In Demchok, which is in the southern part of eastern Ladakh, the problem is mainly at the Charding Ninglung Nullah (CNN) junction.
- Despite the two countries agreeing to go back from their positions, the PLA troops did not vacate the area completely.
- In multiple instances, the PLA also stopped Indian graziers at the Saddle Pass at the CNN junction, well within India’s perception of the LAC.
- India has since deployed a separate brigade to look after the area.
Efforts for disengagement
- Since 2020, Corps Commanders of India and China have been discussing the resolution of the flashpoints along the LAC, including those that emerged after the standoff began.
- Sources said while clear orders are awaited, various modalities have been prepared for possible limited disengagement in phases.
- Commanders on the ground have been discussing possible scenarios for limited disengagement at certain mutually-accepted points along the boundary after the 19th round of India-China military talks earlier in the month of August 2023.
- The talks led to some forward movement with both sides deciding to pull back troops – and dismantle temporary structures – from the Galwan Valley, the north and south banks of Pangong Tso and Patrolling Points in the Gogra and Hot Springs area.
- The last such movement was in September 2023 when both armies disengaged from PP-15 in the Gogra-Hot Springs area after multiple rounds of talks.
- Disengagement in most of these areas led to the creation of buffer zones – this stops troops of both sides from accessing areas that they patrolled earlier.
- Following the 19th round of talks this month, Major General-level talks were held to decide the finer details of resolving the existing issues, including the legacy issues along the LAC, as well as gaining access to all pre-2020 patrolling points along the LAC.
- The commanders discussed several issues such as mutually ensuring that no new posts are constructed in close proximity to the LAC, and identifying specific limits of patrolling.