India will not accept the proposal of Chinese military commanders to turn the eight mountainous spurs jutting out of the Sirijap range into a no-troop area, people familiar with the matter said. Chinese commanders are understood to have proposed that Indian and Chinese troops move back to either side of the eight spurs that overlook the north bank of Pangong lake – named Finger 1 to 8 – and convert the area in between to a no-activity buffer zone, or a no-man’s land.
This proposal doesn’t serve India’s interests since half of the eight spurs were under Indian control before the Chinese troops violated 30 years of written agreements to maintain peace and tranquillity along the LAC on May 5, 2020. And Indian troops patrolled up to the last one. The Chinese commanders are suggesting in the name of peace that Indian troops move back and make the area between first and last spur as a no troops area.
As of now, both the Indian Army and the PLA are facing each other on Finger 4 with China ramping up infrastructure to Finger 8. The Indian Army and the PLA are deployed in proximity in the Gogra-Hot Springs area with up-gradation of military capabilities in the occupied Aksai Chin area.
“This proposal has been rejected. We cannot reward China for its transgressions. We want China to restore status quo ante and PLA to go back to its position as of April 2020,” a military commander said in New Delhi as Army Chief General MM Naravane wrapped up his visit to forward areas of the East Ladakh sector where tens of thousands of soldiers are deployed in sub-polar temperatures to match the PLA’s strength.
One of the areas that General Naravane visited on Wednesday was the strategic heights of Rezang La and Rechin La on Kailash Ranges that was occupied by Indian troops in an overnight operation on August 29, a preemptive move designed to outclass the PLA that was trying to expand its footprint and reach the 1959 line on the south banks of the now nearly frozen lake. The Indian Army chief went to the south banks of Pangong Tso to ensure that the deployed troops are comfortable in sub-zero temperatures and the armor is fighting fit.
The senior army officer said accepting the Chinese proposal would have amounted to ceding control over territory patrolled by Indian Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police before Chinese troops started transgressions across the Indian perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
This aggressive approach of the PLA was the backdrop for the clash between Indian and Chinese patrols on the northern bank of Pangong lake on the night of May 5. Over the next few days and weeks, the face-off spread to some other parts of the East Ladakh sector including Galwan valley and Gogra-Hot Springs area near Kongka La area.
Chinese forces have refused to back down over the past seven months and often try to suggest that Indian and Chinese troops should carry out a simultaneous withdrawal of troops. India, however, wants the PLA to take the first step back because it was the first to cross the red line and trigger the face-off.
The bloody confrontation in Galwan valley in mid-June that led to the death of 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of Chinese soldiers has already eroded the semblance of trust on the Indian side. The PLA had provoked the violent scrap 10 days after its top generals had reached a broad understanding after three rounds of talks with Indian commanders on initiating disengagement at the standoff points.
A senior army officer said there have been multiple proposals from PLA commanders since then but mostly appeared to be aimed at incentivising the Chinese troops for its transgressions. The Indian side has been firm on its demand that any disengagement and de-escalation must result in restoring the 20 April status.