Friday, March 5, 2021

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Top Indian Diplomat Explains Why China Finally Decided To Withdraw From Eastern Ladakh Region

After months of deliberations, the Chinese PLA and the Indian Army are finally withdrawing their troops from Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh. So what made China, which had purportedly shown more aggression along the disputed border, agree to this disengagement process?

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Former Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao believes “harsh winter conditions must have been a very important factor” behind the Chinese agreement on the disengagement. The PLA troops, like the Indian army, were standing guard in the forward posts amid harsh winter, where the mercury drops to subzero levels.

In a podcast by The Economic Times, Rao says that China may have decided to disengage to lower the temperature along the western border as this year marks the centenary for the Chinese Communist Party. The disengagement will allow certain calm, she says.

According to the current agreement, the status quo would be restored, which means returning to the pre-April 2020 position where the Indian Army will hold its traditional base, Dhan Singh post at Finger 3 and the PLA will hold Finger 8 at Sirijab on the north bank of the Pangong Tso.

For the time being, there will be no patrolling by either side in the area between Finger 3 and Finger 8.

It is pertinent to remember that the disengagement in Pangong Tso is just the beginning. The two armies remain locked in several friction points like Depsang plains and Naku La.

It is yet to be seen how the agreements will turn out for these sectors. Indian authorities have claimed they are keeping a close eye and verifying the disengagement process at every step.

Meanwhile, China watchers say that Beijing’s move is strategic. “Beijing’s move seems strategic, subtly linked to the US factor of meddling in the Ladakh standoff,” former diplomat Phunchok Stobdan writes in The Tribune.

The India-US ties received a boost under the Trump administration, especially with both seeing China as an adversary. Now, all eyes are on the Biden administration and its possible move vis-a-vis China. Stobdan is of the view that tensions between India and China began to ease in November 2020 when Donald Trump lost the elections.

According to reports, China made the first disengagement offer at the same time. It had proposed to turn the Sirijap Finger areas into a “no-troop area”, which meant, India had to cede its traditional patrolled areas.

The current disengagement came soon after Trump’s exit from the White House. Stobdan notes that “Beijing wanted to test the limits of Indo-US strategic partnership and waited to weigh its options after the Biden administration took a call on the China-centric Quad and “Indo-Pacific” strategy”.

As reported earlier by the EurAsian Times, experts have raised questions over India’s status on QUAD, which was turning into an anti-China bloc with the US, Japan, and Australia. Hence, indications are that China’s move might be aimed at weakening the India-US ties.

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