India, China starts withdrawal from disputed Pangong Lake
NEW DELHI: Tanks and infantry combat vehicles of India and China started disengaging from both the banks of Pangong lake as part of the disengagement process between the two countries along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Sources said under the first phase of disengagement, the tanks of India are being moved back towards Nyoma and adjoining areas while the Chinese are taking them back beyond Sirijap and Moldo garrison.
“The movement related to disengagement of tanks and infantry combat vehicles from forward positions to rear locations started last evening itself. The disengagement from the two banks of the Pangong lake is aimed to be completed within seven days,” a source told ANI.
After the first phase of disengagement is completed, the two sides would start discussing the other friction points including the Patrolling Point-17 and PP-15, they said.
To finalise the modalities, sources said the two sides had held extensive Army to Army discussions through hotlines as well as the two physical meetings in the Chushul sector on February 8 and 9.
The strategic heights on the southern bank of Pangong lake Rezang La and Rechen La, which were captured by the Indian troops in a preemptive operation in late August, are also witnessing disengagement.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday told parliament that Indian and China have reached an agreement for disengagement on the north and south bank of Pangong Lake and the country will not allow anyone to take an inch of its land.
While India has to move to the Dhan Singh Thapa post near Finger 3, the Chinese will be moving to the east of Finger 8.
The two countries have deployed over 50,000 troops opposite each other in the eastern Ladakh area ever since the Chinese tried to change the status quo.
It may be recalled that Indian defense minister Rajnath Singh said on Thursday that India and China have agreed to disengage troops from a bitterly contested lake area in the western Himalayas, in a breakthrough after a months-long standoff on the disputed border.
Rajnath Singh told parliament the accord had been reached after several rounds of talks between military commanders and diplomats. “Our sustained talks with China have led to agreement on disengagement on the north and south banks of the Pangong lake,” he said.
After announcing the disengagement agreement on the north and west bank of Pangong Lake, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday said that Beijing will keep its troops to the east of Finger 8 at the north of the bank of Pangong Lake, while India will keep its troops at its permanent base near Finger 3.
Speaking in Rajya Sabha on the present situation in Eastern Ladakh, Defence Minister said that as per the agreement, both sides will cease their forward deployments in a phased, coordinated and verified manner.
“The agreement that we have been able to reach with the Chinese side for disengagement in the Pangong lake area envisages that both sides will cease their forward deployments in a phased, coordinated and verified manner. The Chinese side will keep its troop presence in the North Bank area to the east of Finger 8. Reciprocally, the Indian troops will be based at their permanent base at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3,” Rajnath Singh said.
It has been agreed to have a temporary moratorium on military activities by both the sides in the North Bank, including patrolling to the traditional areas. Patrolling will be resumed only when bost sides reach an agreement in diplomatic and military talks that would be held subsequently, he added.
He further added, “Similar action would be taken in the South Bank area by both sides. These are mutual and reciprocal steps and any structures that had been built by both sides since April 2020 in both the North and South Bank area will be removed and the landforms will be restored.”
The Defence Minister stated that India has always told China that bilateral relations can only be maintained by mutual efforts and any impact on peace and tranquillity on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), will adversely affect the ties between the two countries.
“Since last year, we have maintained a relationship with China on military and diplomatic levels. During the talks, we told China that we want a solution to the issue based on three principles. First, both parties must agree on LAC and respect it. Secondly, there shouldn’t be an attempt to change the status unilaterally, by any party. Thirdly, all the compromises should be completely agreed upon by both parties,” said Singh.
India and China had agreed to push for an early disengagement of the frontline troops in eastern Ladakh during the ninth round of the China-India Corps Commander Level meeting held on the Chinese side of the Moldo-Chushul border meeting point on January 24 to address the ongoing military standoff.
The two countries have been engaged in a stand-off along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) since April-May last year. While China began amassing massive military strength along the LAC, India responded with a befitting build-up.