Is the withdrawal from Galwan Valley, Hot Springs and Gogra a red herring?

The Chinese retreat in the Galwan Valley has been affirmed by high resolution satellite images, media reports said on Tuesday.

This is in keeping with the claim that the disengagement process had started after Sunday's Special Representative-level talks.

As part of this exercise -- to create a buffer zone or a no-man’s land -- Indian troops too are retreating in a confidence building measure. While the Chinese have retreated two km, it is not clear to what extent have the Indians backed off.

There is forward momentum elsewhere, too. The PLA has removed its makeshift infrastructure and backed off from the other two points of friction -- Hot Springs and Gogra in eastern Ladakh. Here, the withdrawal is likely to be completed in a couple of day.

The Indian Army is keeping a strict vigil on their rearward movement, government sources said. However, in Pangong Tso – the strategically sensitive area which the Chinese have set their eyes on -- the sources said a "marginal thinning out of troops" has been observed. In other words, the PLA continues to occupy Finger 4.

According to some experts, Galwan Valley may be a red herring and the PLA never intended to hold onto it. Their quarry is the Pangong Tso, areas of which they have successfully usurped. Unless a complete withdrawal takes place in this area, any talk of complete disengagement is mere hogwash. 

The two Armies are expected to hold further talks later this week after the first phase of disengagement process is complete. Possibly, the Pangong Tso will fall in the ambit of the second round of de-escalation.

MODI’S OLD TWEET: Congress leaders on Tuesday dusted a 2013 tweet on China posted by PM Modi and asked him to clarify his position. In the tweet, Modi – then the Gujarat CM -- had asked the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government why Indian forces were retreating from their own territory in Ladakh. "China is withdrawing its forces, but I wonder why Indian forces are withdrawing? Why did we retreat?" The tweet is a throwback to the time when the Chinese troops had entered nearly 10 km deep into the Indian side. After their current standoff, China and India have yet again decided to retreat, pull back their troops and form a buffer zone, it is pointed out.

It is understood that the Government did not want any misinterpretation of the "mutual disengagement" agreement reached after National Security Adviser Ajit Doval's phone call to Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi; so, editors and senior journalists on a WhatsApp group were sent a set of guidelines on what to write, telling them to attribute it to "sources."

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