Tribune News Service
New Delhi, September 13
As India and China once again attempt to resolve the ongoing military standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, the next week or two will be crucial. It can set the course for peace or the ongoing hostilities will continue.
As Lt General-level talks are set to resume anytime this week, the two sides will literally start from scratch as the previous five meetings between June 6 and August 2 ended in failure. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China backtracked on agreements to de-escalate and disengage on the LAC.
In these six weeks, since August 2, dynamics have changed on multiple counts. Firstly, bullets were fired on September 7, the first time in Ladakh since November 1962. Secondly, there have been fresh areas of confrontation like the 70-km stretch along the southern part of Pangong Tso, a 135-km glacial lake. Thirdly, a lack of trust has crept in. The Indian Army will opt for a wait-and-watch strategy while assessing the PLA motives.
There are other flashpoints along the 826-km-LAC in Ladakh —- Depsang plains, north bank of Pangong Tso and Patrolling Point 17-A (in Gogra). Meanwhile, at the South Block, the Army headquarters, the process to cater to the logistics— accommodation, provisions, clothing— has been set in motion.
Even if the two sides agree on peace, India cannot pull back its 45,000 force from Ladakh immediately. In case of fresh confrontation, there will be a problem as the Manali and Srinagar routes will for four months from October onwards. While Zoji La (11,500 feet) on the Srinagar route may be closed to traffic by October-end or early November, Rohtang Pass (13,000 feet) on the Manali route may see snow before that. Other high passes between Rohtang and Leh may also see early closure.
Once the passes close, the only option is to fly out men and supplies from the logistics hub in Chandigarh or Hindon. Also it takes two weeks to acclimatise for battle at those heights, so it will be better to retain the troops in Ladakh.
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