The Army’s move to occupy dominant heights in the Chushul sector and its position in the border face-off with China in eastern Ladakh was taken after a political signal in May to occupy six to seven locations along the Line of Actual Control (LAC)
The Army formulated plans and outmanoeuvred Chinese troops in August-end to occupy the heights including Mukhpari, Rezang La, Rechin La and Gurung Hill among others, and the south bank of pangong Tso n the sub-sector.
The political signal had given instructions to the forces in May itself, to identify six to seven locations where we can go. Underlining the significance of these positions, several of them are beyond the LAC.
On the current state of play, the official said, India is awaiting a response from China to a memo it had sent for the ninth round of discussions at the level of the corps commander. The eighth round of talks had taken place on November 6.
China had previously shown willingness to pull back its troops from Finger 4 to Finger 8 on the north bank of Pangong Tso, but that has now changed because it seems their top leadership doesn’t want it.
At the same time, the official said, China has demanded since September that Indian troops should move back from heights in the Chushul sub-sector and the south bank of Pangong Tso, where they overlook China’s Moldo garrison and the Spanggur Gap.
China wants us to go from the south (bank) the and they have told China that the solution has to be a package so that disengagement from all friction points is discussed together. There is no question of vacating the south bank positions first.
The negotiations can take time and the government is willing to wait. The government and the forces are ready for the long haul if a resolution cannot be found.
Referring to the issue in Depsang Plains, it predates the current standoff by several years. In Depsang Plains, which is close to the strategic Daulat Beg Oldie post near the Karakoram Pass in the north, Indian troops are unable to access their traditional patrolling points 10, 11, 11A, 12 and 13.
In 2013, there was a standoff after Chinese troops occupied an area known as the Bottleneck, which is 18 km inside the LAC. The issue was resolved after 21 days.
The standoff in eastern Ladakh is now more than seven months old, with no sign of disengagement. Both the countries have positioned nearly 50,000 troops each in the region along with tanks and air defence assets amid the harsh winter where the temperature can drop to around minus 40 degree Celsius in some parts.