It Looks Like China and India Won’t Start a War Anytime Soon
Both nations are stepping back from the brink. Thank god.
After months of formal talks to resolve a standoff near the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the poorly demarcated border between China and India in the Ladakh Valley, both sides have discussed a three-step disengagement plan. While Indian and Chinese officers have yet to formally agree on the plan, it calls for the withdrawal of troops and armored vehicles from their forward-deployed positions.
The fact that disengagement is even being discussed is a step in the right direction.
By some accounts, Indian and Chinese tanks and troops were as little as 400 meters apart. Tensions had been high since some twenty Indian Army soldiers, including infantry Colonel B. Santosh Babu, were killed in a violent face-off with Chinese troops in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley in June.
As part of the first step, vehicles will be moved back from their frontline deployment to reported “significant distances” on both sides of the LAC. The second step would call for both sides to withdraw approximately thirty percent of troops each day for three days—with the Indian military moving to its administrative Dhan Singh Thapa post, also known as the Finger 3, while the Chinese military would move back to its position east of Finger 8.
In the third and final step, the two sides were to withdraw from their respective positions along the frontline southern bank of the Pangong Lake area, and included the thirteen critical heights and territories around the Chushul and Rezang La areas held by the Indian Army. Those mountain heights had been occupied on the southern bank of the Pangong Lake since August 30—and prior to that the heights had been unmanned.
The progress of disengagement could reportedly be verified by drones as well as delegation meetings.
The talk of a pullback of forces should be welcome news to the soldiers on both sides of the LAC. In the region, temperatures have fallen to minus twenty degrees Celsius. Both sides have moved in armored vehicles that can operate in extreme conditions, while China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) has been prioritizing its soldiers in Tibet with winter supplies and patrol gear. That was seen as largely in contrast to the normal operating procedures, which normally see the troops in the eastern and northern armies receiving the latest equipment first.
The PLA forces also were equipped with prefabricated thermal shelters, which included dormitories, washrooms, toilets, warehouses and of course heating equipment. These shelters can operate in temperatures up to minus 55 degrees Celsius and maintain an indoor temperature of an almost comfortable 15 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit). The facilities can also be adjusted in terms of size, structure, and even interior spaces to meet the needs of the soldiers.
The disengagement plan came a day after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping took part in a face-to-face meeting during a virtual summit of leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on November 10. The two leaders will meet virtually again on November 17 during the BRICS summit and again during the G-20 meeting on November 21.
Although nothing has been formalized, the mere talks have been among the most progress made as Beijing was previously unwilling to even discuss the pulling back from the Finger areas of Pangong Tso, while it insisted that the Indian Army vacant the dominant heights. Now it seems with colder weather coming, cooler heads have prevailed.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.