The decision on phased withdrawal of Indian and Chinese troops from one of the friction areas in the Ladakh region is a positive development, but there is no reason to drop the guard as Beijing refuses to recognise the status quo as it existed in April 2020, when the current military standoff began. China also continues to behave belligerently. The recent act of carrying out construction activities inside Indian territory at Chaglagam in Anjaw district shows that China is still aggressively behaving along the line of actual control (LAC).
The agreement on disengagement of frontline troops in the Hot Springs area along the LAC came after months of protracted negotiations between the military commanders of the two countries. The Chinese created many obstacles in the talks.
While the move is the right step towards restoration of peace, there is a need to resolve all pending border disputes once and for all, as suggested by the Indian side. China continues to complicate the matters by claiming that the status quo was created by “illegal trespassing on the Indian side” – a contention that goes against the ground realities. Restoration of the status quo and the violation of agreements and protocols for border management through China’s action of amassing troops along the LAC are among the key issues raised by New Delhi. Hot Springs is only the third friction point where the two countries have agreed on the disengagement of troops during the 16th round of corps commander level meeting, but the bigger problems at the friction points of Depsang and Demchok remain to be addressed, largely due to the intransigence of the Chinese side.
China has persistently refused to accept these two locations as friction points, contending that they are not part of the current face-off. The site of the latest disengagement is near the area where at least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers were killed in the June 2020 clash. With the PLA trying to shift the LAC westwards, the unresolved areas could turn into new flashpoints. A new crisis in eastern Ladakh or elsewhere along the LAC would undo the gains made in the form of disengagement over the last two years.