Two days after sources told News18 that for the first time in six months China has hinted at willingness to withdraw troops from eastern Ladakh, a three-step de-escalation plan of the Army has now come to fore. A move towards pull back was seen when both sides turned the face of their tanks away from the enemy positions, officials said on Monday.
They told News18 that the three-step approach to de-escalation was proposed at the eighth round of corps commander-level talks. The de-escalation begins with withdrawal of tanks and armoured vehicles and ends with complete pull back.
While the final nod for the proposal is awaited from Beijing and Delhi, officials in the security grid do point out that it is easier for China to bring back its tanks and armoured vehicles because of better roads on their side. “India had taken China by surprise by bringing its tanks up on the ridge line. Once we withdraw, it will be difficult to reclaim those positions," an officer told News18.
The second proposal is to permit Indian side to patrol up to Finger 8. China has for the first time indicated that it is willing to de-escalate on north and south bank of Pangong Tso simultaneously. So far PLA had insisted that Indian side vacate the heights along Pangong Tso first. India had asked for simultaneous withdrawal of troops. Indian and Chinese troops are at eyeball-to-eyeball position along Finger 4. PLA bas not allowed Indian troops to patrol up to Finger 8 on north bank since Galwan clashes.
The proposal also includes turning area between Finger 4 and Finger 8 into a ‘no patrolling’ zone. Indians, as per this proposal, would withdraw till Shan Singh Thapa post between Finger 2 and Finger 3, while China would withdraw beyond Finger 8. Traditionally, Indian troops have patrolled till Finger 8, while Chinese side have patrolled till Finger 4.
The third proposal is troop reduction. Thirty per cent troop reduction from both sides simultaneously has been proposed as a starting point. News18 had reported on Monday that de-escalation would begin with troop withdrawal from Pangong Tso and subsequent decision will be taken on Chushul and Depsang.
The dates for next round of talks is expected this week. It is likely that both sides will finalise the de-escalation proposal at the ninth round of talks.