Depsang to be tackled next

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune news Service

New Delhi, February 11

India and China’s disengagement process to pull back their militaries from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is expected to be carried out in multiple phases.

Along the 823-km LAC in eastern Ladakh, both militaries are eyeball to eyeball at some locations. The disengagement process, which commenced yesterday, is only restricted to both banks of the Pangong Tso, a 135-km glacial lake. It is expected to complete in four weeks.

After Pangong Tso pullback, the next phase will include resumption of patrolling limits in certain LAC areas claimed by both sides. Thereafter, the issue of the 900-sq km Depsang plains located north of the Shyok river will be tackled. Located at an altitude of 16,000 feet, the Indian Army occupies a large portion of the Depsang plains while the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China holds its eastern edge. There was a massive build-up by both sides in 2020, which needs to be scaled down. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told the Rajya Sabha on Thursday about the future course to ease the standoff. “There are some outstanding issues with regard to deployment and patrolling at some other points (besides the Pangong Tso) along the LAC in eastern Ladakh. These will be the focus of further discussions with the Chinese side,” he said.

Sources said the next phase would start after full verification of the completion of the first phase in the Pangong Tso area.

From India’s perspective, Depsang is vital as the PLA could threaten the Indian strategic airfield at Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), located at 16,700 feet. The DBO is just 20 km south of 18,176-foot-high Karakoram pass, which divides Ladakh and Xinjiang in China.

Also the 255-km Darbuk-Shyok-DBO (DSDBO) road close to the LAC is vulnerable to threat, and any attempt to cut off DBO could restrict access to the Karakoram pass.

3 Key principles

  • India stresses both sides should strictly respect LAC
  • Neither side should attempt to alter status quo unilaterally
  • All pacts must be fully abided

Future course

  • Disengagement for now only focuses at Pangong Tso
  • Build-up at Depsang to be taken up in next phase
  • Resumption of patrolling on at least six routes to be sorted out

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