The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) appears to be in no hurry to disengage and de-escalate from Gogra-Hot Springs in East Ladakh as it wants the matter to be resolved at a local commanders’ level and not through Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China border Affairs (WMCC), or dialogue between Indian XIV Corps Commander and PLA Commander of South Xinjiang military district.
While the dates of WMCC followed by the 12th round of military dialogue were to be decided through the hotline between the two armies, there has been no forward movement recorded from the Chinese side. India has made it clear that disengagement and de-escalation between two armies in East Ladakh is a prerequisite for normalisation of bilateral relations, which were hit by PLA aggression in Pangong Tso and Gogra-Hot Springs area in May 2020. While there has been disengagement from Pangong Tso area from both north and south banks of the saltwater lake, the PLA has been dragging feet over disengagement in river Chang Chemmo-KongKa La area which lies between Galwan and Pangong Tso.
“While the dates for the WMCC and 12th round are being awaited, the PLA is communicating that LAC disengagement in Pangong Tso has been completed as per objective of the leadership of two countries. They want the Gogra-Hot Springs disengagement to be resolved at a level of local commanders and not convene a special meeting,” said an official in know of the matter. This clearly indicates that the Chinese want to drag the disengagement around Kongka La into tedious conversations of local commanders rather than look at the big picture of bilateral relationship.
Tagged on to the issue of PLA restoring status quo ante of April 2020 in Gogra-Hot Springs area is also about Indian Army’s patrolling rights in Depsang Bulge area, south of Daulet Beg Oldi, near Karakoram Pass. However, this issue will be taken up separately at the Brigadier level talks.
Even though Chinese President Xi Jinping wants his Chinese Communist Party (CCP) colleagues to portray a picture of “open and confident, but also modest and humble” China, the PLA is in no mood to compromise on its strategic objectives vis-à-vis India on the LAC issue. Despite the Pangong Tso disengagement, both the armies are deployed in a division strength along the 1597 km LAC in East Ladakh with fighters and heavy armour ready in the hinterland. Deception continues to be a legitimate tool in Chinese strategic armoury.