India Risks Losing Maritime Leverage in Indian Ocean as China Tests Delhi’s Strength in Ladakh

It took months for the Indian military to regain control of Ladakh, and then only in a few sectors, after China launched its incursions into the region. India’s strategic thinkers have yet to determine why China advanced; however, some reckon that preventing India from increasing its maritime influence in the Indian Ocean may be the driving force.

After six months of talks, India’s defence ministry claimed that it has reached an agreement with China to defuse the “face-off situation” by withdrawing troops from Gogra Post, one of the 65 patrolling points in Ladakh. Moreover, India is hopeful that it will soon negotiate a deal with China to disband forces from the Depsang region, where the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are reportedly 15 kilometres inside Indian Territory. However, there has been no statement as yet from China about the withdrawal of troops from Gogra.

Questioning the reasons behind India’s moves so far, strategic commentator Brahma Chellaney observes that the Indian authorities have “voluntarily” accepted “China-proposed buffer zones that not only close off Indian forces’ access to their traditional patrolling points, but also involve a retreat further back into Indian Territory”.

Nevertheless, the Indian government emphasises that, besides six hotlines, these temporary buffer zones are being created to prevent any untoward incidents along the border.

“The amount of mobilisation in which both the forces have engaged and the kind of change of…

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