India-China disengagement at LAC

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    Recently ,India and China announced that their armies have begun to disengage from Patrolling Point-15 in the Gogra-Hotsprings area of Eastern Ladakh, marking a step forward to end the standoff ongoing since May 2020.

    More In News 

    • The move comes ahead of next week’s Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Uzbekistan, which both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping are attending.

    Line Of Actual Control (LAC)

    • The LAC is the demarcation that separates Indian-controlled territory from Chinese-controlled territory.
    • For India  the LAC is 3,488 km long, while China considers it to be only around 2,000 km.
    • It is divided into three sectors: 
      • the eastern sector which includes Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, 
      • the middle sector in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, and 
      • the western sector in Ladakh.

    Status of disengagement 

    • According to the consensus reached in the 16th round of India China Corps Commander Level Meeting,the two sides have agreed to cease forward deployments in this area in a phased, coordinated and verified manner, resulting in the return of the troops of both sides to their respective areas.
    • All temporary structures and other allied infrastructure created in the area by both sides will be dismantled and mutually verified.
    •  The landforms in the area will be restored to pre-stand-off period by both sides.
    • The agreement ensures that the LAC in this area will be strictly observed and respected by both sides, and that there will be no unilateral change in status quo.
    • Earlier steps 
    • Both sides have maintained effective communications at all levels and agreed to properly handle the situation through bilateral dialogues.
    • India and China have completed disengagement in five other areas — PP15 being the latest — creating buffer zones in Galwan Valley, north and south of Pangong Lake, and in PP17A in Hot Springs.
      • The friction points that remain now are Demchok and Depsang, which China has constantly refused to accept, maintaining that they are not a part of the current stand-off. 

    Border disputes between India & China

    • In the Western sector: Here India shares a 2152 km long border with China, and territorial disputes over Aksai Chin region of Jammu and Kashmir, with both countries claiming the region as their own.
      • The recent dispute is around the region of the northern bank of Pangong Tso lake, Demchok and the Galwan Valley. 
    • In the middle sector: Here India roughly shares about a 625 km long boundary with China with a few minor disputes regarding Tibet. 
    • In the Eastern Sector: Here India shares a 1,140 km long boundary with China and this boundary line is called McMahon Line. 
      • The major dispute here is around the region of Tawang Valley of Arunachal Pradesh, Chumbi Valley (Dokalam Tri- Junction) which India shares with Bhutan.

    What do the border agreements say?

    •  1993 and 1996 agreements:A key element of both the 1993 and 1996 agreements is that the two sides would keep their forces in the areas along the LAC to a minimum level
      •  However, the agreements do not define what comprises the minimum level. 
      • The 1996 agreement limits the deployment of major categories of armaments close to the LAC, including tanks, infantry combat vehicles, guns with 75-mm or bigger calibre, mortars with 120-mm or above and various missiles. 
      • It also limits combat aircraft from flying within 10 km of the LAC. It stipulates that neither side “shall open fire, cause bio-degradation, use hazardous chemicals, conduct blast operations or hunt with guns or explosives within two km” from the LAC.
      • The 1993 and 1996 agreements also mandate that pending a final solution to the boundary question, the two sides shall strictly respect the LAC. 
    •  2013 Border Defence Cooperation Agreement 
      • In 2012, India and China agreed to establish a Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination to “study ways and means to conduct and strengthen exchanges and cooperation between military personnel and establishment in the border areas.” 
      • The 2013 Border Defence Cooperation Agreement lists several mechanisms to reduce misunderstandings and improve communication. Article VI of the agreement prohibits either side from tailing the patrols of the other “in areas where there is no common understanding of the line of actual control”.

    India’s Position 

    • India will continue to press for complete disengagement and de-escalation from all friction areas and the Corps Commander level talks will continue.
    • India has constantly stated that the relationship cannot go back to normal as long as the situation along the standoff continues and has repeatedly called for the restoration of the status quo and restoration along the LAC.

    China’s stand

    • China termed the PP15 agreement “a positive development” that “will help facilitate the sound and steady development of bilateral relation but reiterated its stand that it would not accept India’s demand to restore the status quo prior to China’s transgressions, saying “the status quo of April 202 was created by India’s illegal crossing of the Line of Actual Control [LAC]”.
      • In the last two years, China has also undertaken massive construction of infrastructure, habitat, and support structures to maintain the troops close to the LAC, altering the ground status.

    Future Prospects 

    • India and China will take up remaining issues along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) once the ongoing disengagement at Patrolling Point (PP) 15 in Gogra-Hot Springs is completed  and will restore peace and tranquillity in border areas
    • The Indian government has to keep a constant watch on all developments that have a bearing on India’s security and takes all necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

    Source:TH