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Explained: Stand off to "Agreement", the recent India-China border dispute

Indian and Chinese troops have begun moving back from standoff positions at different points in the Galwan and Hot Spring areas of Ladakh

By Ayushman Ojha
New Update
Explained: Stand off to "Agreement", the recent India-China border dispute

Ayushman Ojha | Ground Report

Indian and Chinese troops have begun moving back from standoff positions at different points in the Galwan and Hot Spring areas of Ladakh. China said on Wednesday it had “reached agreement” with India on the ongoing tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Though many details were not provided like of the standoff points, where Chinese troops are still present on India's side. Both sides agreed to handle the situation “properly” and “in line with the agreement”. Meanwhile, the two sides held Major General-level talks, which lasted over four hours,on Wednesday. It was to discuss further de-escalation at several standoff points in Eastern Ladakh including Patrolling Point (PP) 14 following a broad accord reached on Saturday in talks held at the Corps Commander-level

Background of the dispute

There has been frequent war and peace between the two Asian giants. Both sides established diplomatic relations in 1950, but a 1962 border war between them set back ties for decades. China claims some 90,000 square kilometres of territory in India’s northeast, including the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh with its traditionally Buddhist population. India says China occupies 38,000 square kilometres of its territory in the Aksai Chin Plateau in the western Himalayas, including part of the Ladakh region

In 1993, the two countries signed an agreement on the “Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility” along what is known as the Line of Actual Control along their border. India considers the LAC to be 3,488 km long, while the Chinese consider it to be only around 2,000 km. It is divided into three sectors: the eastern sector which spans Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, the middle sector in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, and the western sector in Ladakh.

The matter of recent dispute

  • In Naku La in Sikkim, on May 9, a Chinese patrol on the Indian side of the LAC was confronted by an Indian patrol which led to a clash.
  • On May 29, President Trump announced that he had spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who he claimed was “not in a good mood about what’s going on with China,” with regard to the “raging border dispute”. Trump also offered to mediate.
  • Within hours, Indian government sources clarified that the two leaders had not spoken since April 4. Both India and China also rebuffed Trump’s offer to mediate, with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh informing his American counterpart that the matter would be resolved bilaterally.
  • In an interview to Network18 on June 2, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that “Whatever is happening at present… It is true that people of China are on the border. They claim that it is their territory. Our claim is that it is our area. There has been a disagreement over it. A sizeable number of Chinese people have also come (Aur achhi khasi sankhya mein Cheen ke log bhi aa gaye hain). India has done what it needs to do”. He did not say whether Chinese soldiers were on Indian territory.
  • The most serious issue is in the area of Pangong Tso and its northern banks, where Chinese soldiers have moved up to the line they perceive to be the LAC.
  • Satellite images show they have also undertaken some construction activities in the areas that are claimed by India. In the area of Hot Spring, Chinese soldiers have moved into three areas of PP14, PP15, and Gogra, backed by a large number of troops and heavy equipment on their side.
  • Not a single bullet has been fired as per the agreement between India and China. Border altercations are usually limited to fist and elbow fights. But this time, there are reports of sticks and iron rods being used. 

For now “Through diplomatic and military channels, China and India have recently had effective communication and reached agreement on properly handling the situation in the west section of the China-India boundary,” spokesperson Hua Chunying said. “At present, the two sides are taking actions in line with the agreement to ameliorate the border situation.” There was a prediction that these tensions won't continue and it seems too that way.

Pangong Lake remains a major area of contention where Chinese troops had taken position in Indian territory and that is expected to be discussed at the Corps Commander level at a later stage, officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. Army sources said the troop movement, not similar to the deployment in eastern Ladakh, took place in the depth areas of all three sectors -- western, middle and eastern – of the 3,488-km boundary that India shares with China.

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