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Disengagement at Pangong accomplished

Military commanders of India, China to meet today to focus on other friction points: Hot Springs, Gogra, Depsang valley

Honouring the pact to defuse tension, India and China have carried out pull back of their troops from the stand-off sites at the Pangong Tso (lake) in Eastern Ladakh.  The military commanders of the two Armies will meet on Saturday to focus on the other friction points, including Hot Springs, Gogra and the Depsang valley.

The upcoming meeting of the Corps Commanders is part of the agreement that stipulates that the two officials will meet 48 hours after the complete withdrawal of troops from the southern and northern banks of the Pangong lake. This will be the tenth round of such meeting since the face-offs between the two Armies at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) started over ten months ago.

The upcoming round will start at 10 am at the Moldo border meeting point on the Chinese side in the Chushul sector, sources said here on Friday.

Confirming that the two sides abided by the agreement to completely withdraw their troops and tanks from the Pangong lake, officials said the process, which began on February 10, was over on Thursday.  It is the first step in the long process to restore peace at the LAC in Ladakh, they said, adding local commanders of the two armies verified the withdrawal.

Also, the Chinese pullback was constantly monitored via drones and satellite imagery by India round-the-clock, official said. The disengagement will also be reviewed by the Corps Commanders on Saturday.

As regards the agenda for the upcoming talks, officials said India is likely to press for faster disengagement of troops from both the sides at the remaining stand-off sites. At present, more than one lakh troops besides tanks and heavy guns are deployed in forward areas at the LAC in Ladakh since the stand-offs began in May last year.

On February 11, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told Parliament about an agreement between India and China on disengagement in the north and south banks of Pangong lake.

The agreement mandated both sides to “cease” forward deployment of troops in a “phased, coordinated and verifiable” manner.

Under the agreement, he said, China will pull back its troops to east of “Finger 8” areas in the northern bank of Pangong lake while the Indian troops will be based at their permanent base at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near “Finger 3” in the region.

Similar action would take place on the south bank of the lake, he said. Sources on Friday confirmed that troops from both the sides had gone back to their respective positions agreed upon by India and China.

The Indian delegation at Saturday’s talks will be led by Lt Gen PGK Menon, the Commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps while the Chinese side is expected to be headed by Maj Gen Liu Lin, the commander of the South Xinjiang military district of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

In his statement in Parliament, the Defence Minister also said it was agreed to convene the next meeting of senior commanders of both sides within 48 hours of completion of the disengagement in the Pangong lake areas so as to resolve all other remaining issues. 

He also said talks were on at the diplomatic and military levels to bring down temperature.  Rajnath, however, reiterated that India did not concede anything during the talks and subsequent agreement.

The Chinese military built several bunkers and other structures in the areas between Finger 4 and 8 and had blocked all Indian patrols beyond Finger 4, triggering strong reaction from the Indian Army.

In the nine rounds of military talks, India had specifically insisted on withdrawal of Chinese troops from Finger 4 to Finger 8 on the north bank of Pangong Lake. The mountain spurs in the area are referred to as Fingers.

The Chinese insisted during the talks that the Indian troops should pull back from some strategic hilltops on the southern ban of the lake.

In August last year, Indian troops occupied a number of strategic heights in the Mukhpari, Rechin La and Magar hill areas around the southern bank after the Chinese PLA attempted to intimidate them in the area.

Saturday, 20 February 2021 | PNS | New Delhi

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