Galwan Pullback: Experts Advise Caution Over Chinese Withdrawal

While India and China have taken the first step to ease tensions, a reading of official statements betrays concern.

Updated
India
3 min read
Latest satellite images show that Chinese troops have reportedly returned to patrolling Post 14 on the Line of Actual Control in Galwan Valley.
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While India and China have taken the first step towards de-escalating the border tension, as of 6 July, a careful reading of the official statement released by both countries betrays concern.

Meanwhile, the reports about how much both India and China have pulled back are also posing some serious questions about the agreement between two countries. It has been reported by The Hindu that while China has pulled back 2 km from face-off site in Galwan Valley, India, too, has moved back 1.5 km.

As a result of which, the Indian Army will not be able to patrol up to Patrol Point 14 (PP14) for at least next 30 days, the report said, citing government officials.

China’s State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who is also the Chinese Representative on the China-India Boundary Question, said on Monday that they “reached positive agreement on easing the border situation with Indian National Adviser Ajit Doval”.

In the statement, China talked of a candid, in-depth discussion over easing the current situation. Both statements – by the MEA and China – spoke about the importance of maintaining peace and tranquility in the border areas.

However, both statements did not mention a timeline or details of the said "positive agreement".

Here are some of the concerns raised by the experts:

The Difference in Language between India and China’s Statements

Strategic Affairs Analyst Brahma Chellaney pointed out two instances where language used in India’s statement was missing from China’s statement.

He tweeted, “Missing from China's statement is India's assertion that both sides agreed to ‘strictly respect and observe the line of actual control’ and ‘not take any unilateral action to alter the status quo’. China also doesn't use India's terms ‘de-escalation’, ‘earliest’, ‘expeditiously’”.

Only the word “disengagement” was used in the statement issued by China, and buried deep into the last line. The statement concluded by calling for “complete disengagement of the front-line troops as soon as possible”.

‘Disengagement Not Enough’

Speaking to The Hindu, Ashok Kantha, Director of the Institute of Chinese Studies and former ambassador to China, said, “The lesson for us in Doklam is that disengagement is not enough in order to declare an end to tensions at the LAC. It is necessary that we define the points up to where troops must withdraw to and no understanding should be reached without the restoration of status quo ante.” Talking about how India should not go for a ‘quick fix’, as the PLA has constructed major infrastructure and consolidated its position in Doklam, he insisted that disengagement and de-escalation was not enough.

Government sources quoted by The Hindu, on the condition of anonymity, said the satellite pictures and ground reports show PLA troops resumed construction in the Doklam area a few months into the disengagement.

“The sources said that the PLA has made two black-top or asphalt roads inside the disputed territory with Bhutan, which are extenions of two Chinese roads, to the east and to the south,” The Hindu report reads.

China Is Pointing Fingers at India, Saying It ‘Will Defend its New Territorial Gains’

Experts have said that the statement from China points fingers at India for the entire issue without speaking of the fact that it was the country’s People’s Liberation Army that had launched a premeditated military plan in May, India Today reports.

“The right and wrong of what recently happened at the Galwan Valley in the western sector of the China-India boundary is very clear,” the Chinese statement said. “China will continue to firmly safeguard its territorial sovereignty as well as peace and tranquility in the border areas”.

Chellaney, who had highlighted the difference in the language, concludes his thread of tweets by saying that, “China, underpinning its freshly minted claim to Galwan Valley after encroaching there, has alluded to India as the aggressor and asserted that it will ‘continue firmly safeguarding our territorial sovereignty’. Simply put, China is saying it will defend its new territorial gains.”

No Fixed Timeline Mentioned

Lt General Rakesh Sharma, former General Officer Commanding of the Leh-based 14 Corps, spoke about the vague time frame that the statements mention. “As soon as possible” was the only hint of a timeline given in any of the statements. “Both the statements don’t fix a timeline that’s a very significant negative,” Sharma told India Today.

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