India said no to China proposal on pullback from Hot Springs

Around the time Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited India last month, Beijing sent Delhi a proposal on disengagement of troops from Patrolling Point 15 in the Hot Springs area of eastern Ladakh. The proposal was rejected by India.

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Government sources said China proposed that Indian troops, who have been in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with Chinese troops at PP 15 for almost two years now, move back to the Karam Singh Post between PP 16 and PP 17. China said it would withdraw its troops just behind the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as claimed by India in that region.

Sources said this was unacceptable to India since the Chinese claim line and India’s understanding of the LAC almost intersect at PP 15. If India were to accept the proposal, it would mean that while Chinese troops would move back very little, Indian troops would have to withdraw several kilometres behind.

“While they will move back to just behind PP 15, they are asking us to relinquish even PP 16 which has never been claimed by China earlier. It’s like saying I will move back 1 km and you move back 5-10 km. It’s a non-starter of a proposal for discussion,” a government official said.

In fact, even PP 15 has come into contention only now and never in the past, sources said.

The situation in the Depsang Plains in the far north is not encouraging either. While the Chinese have denied Indian troops access to their traditional patrolling points 10, 11, 11A, 12 and 13, the information available with the government is that China has stationed a temporary hot-mix plant for roadbuilding behind these patrolling points on the Chinese side.

Wang Yi’s visit last month – he reached March 24 evening and left after talks the next day — was seen as China extending an olive branch to India and had built hopes of a resolution on PP 15 through diplomatic and Corps Commander-level talks.

Following his talks with Wang Yi, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had said the Sino-Indian relationship was “not normal” and “the presence of a large number of troops there, in contravention of agreements” was an “abnormality”, so “restoration of normalcy will obviously require restoration of peace and tranquility”.

“If we are both committed to improving our ties, then this commitment must find full expression in ongoing disengagement talks,” he had said, suggesting that the onus of normalisation of ties was with Beijing.

He described the “current situation as work in progress”, and at a “slower pace than desirable”.

The 15th round of Corps Commander-level talks between India and China was held on March 11. The meeting did not resolve the stalemate.

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A joint statement released the next day said the two sides “agreed to maintain dialogue via military and diplomatic channels to reach a mutually acceptable resolution at the earliest”.

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