(This was originally posted in Hindustan Times by Shishir Gupta)
A meeting between India’s Ladakh Corps Commander and Chinese South Xinjiang military district commander is expected to take place on Sunday at Chushul with de-escalation from patrolling point 15 or general area Hot Springs on the agenda. According to people familiar with the matter, the senior military commanders will take up remaining points of friction in East Ladakh, including Depsang Bulge and Charding Nullah Junction in South Demchok, one at a time. If the two decide to come to an agreement (most plausible) on de-escalation from Hot Springs, the PLA aggression of May 2020 will be reversed with the status quo intact in East Ladakh. As of now, some 50 PLA personnel are ahead for their positions at patrolling point 15 with an equal number of Indian Army troops facing them at a distance.
Even though the military situation has eased out between the two sides as compared to last year, the PLA has still deployed more than two divisions and a number of combined arms brigades. The Indian Army also has matching deployments with the air force on standby from both sides. “If de-escalation from PP 15 is reached on Sunday, then both India and China can work towards de-induction of troops from the East Ladakh theatre after 16 months,” said a Beijing watcher.
While India will welcome the de-escalation from Hot Springs after the Gogra agreement in the previous round of military dialogue, New Delhi wants continued discussions to resolve patrolling rights in Depsang Bulge and Charding Nullah Junction so that all pin-pricks along the 1597km long Ladakh LAC are removed.
While there has been recent excitement within the media over PLA transgressions in Barahoti Plains in Central Sector and Tawang in the eastern sector, the armies on both sides have taken them as routine annual fall-outs of an undefined border. However, India has made it very clear that normalcy in bilateral relations is totally dependent on peace and tranquillity along the 3488km LAC with PLA directed to desist from making any unilateral changes on the ground.