De-escalation on the Ladakh LAC still proceeds two years after Galwan
5 May, 2022 | Riya Girdhar
While no fewer than 15 rounds of meetings between Indian and Chinese senior military commanders have taken place in an attempt to restore the status quo ante on the unresolved border by April 2020,...
On May 5, 2020, two years after the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) crossed into Galwan Valley, an uneasy stalemate exists between India and the Chinese army along the 1597 km Line of Actual Control (LAC) in East Ladakh, with incomplete disassociation from the Kongka La area and irresolvable patrolling issues in the Depsang and Demchok areas.
While no fewer than 15 rounds of meetings between Indian and Chinese senior military commanders have taken place in an attempt to restore the status quo ante on the unresolved border by April 2020, the PLA remains forwardly located in the KongKa La area, or what is defined as patrolling point 15 on the military map. On May 17-18, the Chinese Army crossed the Kugrang River, a tributary of the Shyok River, Gogra, and the north banks of the Pangong Tso.
Although the two armies have been able to disengage from Pangong Tso, Galwan, and the Gogra-Hot Springs area, the PLA has yet to withdraw from KongKa La, which limits China’s border claims as defined by the 1959 Line on the LAC. It is worth noting that the Chinese withdrew from Galwan in July 2020, following the June 15 skirmishes in which the Indian Army lost 20 personnel, but only after inflicting unreported fatalities on the PLA troops.
The Indian Army withdrew from the north banks of Pangong Tso in February 2021, following an audacious action on the south banks of the saltwater lake on August 29-31, 2020.
The Indian Army and Special Frontier Force moved quickly to take crucial heights on the lake’s south side, putting Chinese positions in Moldo tactically vulnerable.
The PLA would have dragged its feet on disengagement from the lake’s north shore if it hadn’t been for the Indian Army’s intervention. The disengagement from the Gogra station on the Chang Chemo River, which enters the Kugrang River in the general west direction, occurred in August 2021.
Despite the fact that both sides have achieved significant disengagement along the East Ladakh LAC, there has been no de-escalation of forces in the region, with both armies present in full strength with armoured, rocket, artillery, and missile support.
The Indian side has remained on high alert, with reports indicating that the PLA may use the Ukraine situation to expand into new areas along the LAC. The Modi government has issued clear instructions that any PLA belligerence on the LAC must be countered and responded to in kind, without relinquishing an inch of territory.
The Galwan Valley and Pangong Tso Lake are peaceful, but the PLA has militarized their side with a new bridge across the salt-water lake for troop interchange and logistical supply in the worst-case scenario. The Indian side has also beefed up along the 3,488-kilometer-long LAC, with specific instructions to troops defending the north boundaries.