China turns Indian proposal on its head, wants de-escalation first and then disengagement

The India-China military and diplomatic talks over resolving the Ladakh stand-off remain confidential, but HT learns that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has turned the dis-engagement, then de-escalation formulation on its head by proposing that tanks and artillery support should be mutually withdrawn first so that vertical escalation is averted in case of an accident.

The Indian position on the other hand is that there should be comprehensive disengagement of troops through a phased withdrawal, a verification process, and then a de-escalation. The disengagement, New Delhi has maintained, should involve troops going back to their pre-April 2020 positions along the 1597 km Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh. Once this happens, de-escalation can follow.

Experts say that in pure military terms, thinning out of artillery and tank support from the friction points does not work in favour of the Indian Army as the PLA has built roads right up to Beijing’s perception of LAC and has the capacity and capability to deploy much faster than Indian armour.

According to senior officials, the Indian Army will have to remain deployed in the heights of East Ladakh through the winter, till the PLA decides in favour of disengagement and restoring status quo ante. “ The Indian Army has been trained in high altitude deployments and will be on guard till the situation is mutually resolved. The Indian position is comfortable and well-defended,” a senior official said on condition of anonymity.

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