The beginning of the disengagement of Indian and Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh has given a tremendous boost to our amour proper. The feeling is that “we have not yielded to them, we have stood up to them. They are retreating now.” Given China’s overall policy and hostile attitude to India, one is tempted to recall what Marshal Foch said when the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919, formally ending the First World War. China certainly did not expect the rapid and formidable response of India’s armed forces. India was ready for war if the Chinese decided to foist one on India and left the Chinese in no doubt about it. The option lay with Beijing and Xi Jinping decided to wait for another day when the past mistakes have been corrected and a new strategy to deal with India has been formulated.
At the moment the Chinese have withdrawn from the Pangong Lake but is sitting tight at four ‘friction points’, namely, Gogra, Hot Springs, Demchok and Depsang Plains. The tenth round of talks with China spanning sixteen long hours, on disengagement of troops from these places remained inconclusive. Why are the Chinese dragging their feet at these places? Because each of them is strategically important to them. Take the Depsang Plains, for example. Situated at an altitude of 16,400 feet and measuring 972 sq. kms, it falls under India’s sub-sector north (SSN) and is sandwiched between Siachen Glacier on one side and Aksai Chin (occupied by China in 1962) on the other. Demchok was divided between India and China after the 1962 war, one part is administered by India while the other part, Demgog, is part of the Tibet Autonomous Region administered by China.
The armistice has cost India the loss of the strategic hilltops the Indian army occupied last year. Apologists for the Government have a strange argument to justify the vacating of the hilltops, “If we could occupy them in the past, we can occupy them again in future, if need be.” It is easier said than done. The Chinese will also correct their past mistakes should they decide to launch another aggression anywhere along the 3488 km long Line of Actual Control. We have withdrawn from Finger Four to Finger Three. Earlier, Indian troops used to patrol up to Finger Eight. Now the entire area from Fingers Four to Eight has become a buffer zone where there will be no patrolling by either side. The Chinese have realised that in a war in the Himalayan region, the advantage lies with India. The terrain and the Indian army’s long experience in fighting mountain wars put the Chinese at a disadvantage vis-à-vis India. China had kept mum on the casualties its troops had suffered in the Galwan Valley clash last year. A few days ago, TASS, the official Russian news agency, reported that 45 Chinese soldiers had been killed by the Indians at Galwan. It immediately provoked a response from Beijing. The figure, it maintained, was 4, not 45. At least there is an admission that China had also suffered losses. Some consolation!