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India, China agree to disengage at all spots

Reiteration came during 10th round of talks between Corps Commanders

India and China on Saturday emphasised their commitment to ensuring peaceful disengagement from the stand-off sites in Ladakh at the earliest. The flashpoints include Hot Springs, Gogra, and Depsang Valley.

This reiteration came during the tenth round of talks between Corps Commanders of the two armies at Moldo border meeting point at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Chushul. The two military officials along with their respective delegations also reviewed the pullback process from the southern and northern banks of the Pangong Tso (lake).

Both armies on Thursday completed the withdrawal of tanks and troops at the Pangong friction point. This is seen as the first step in bringing peace and tranquility at the LAC after the ten-month-long stand-off. The process started in a synchronised manner on February 10.

As per the agreement between the two sides, the military officials were to meet 48 hours after the complete pull back from Pangong. The meeting on Saturday between Lt General PK Menon and Major General Liu Lin was the first one since the pull back.

Besides taking stock of the situation post the withdrawal at Pangong lake, the two commanders also discussed ways to disengage from Hot Springs, Gogra, and Depsang valley, sources said here.

They said India will insist on a faster disengagement process in the remaining areas like Hot Springs, Gogra, and Depsang to bring down tension in the region.

Officials were hopeful of early agreement to mutually pull back troops from Patrolling Point 15 and 17A in Gogra as normalcy was restored to a large extent in the adjacent Pangong region.

However, a mutually acceptable plan to disengage from the Depsang plains could take longer, sources said. This region in the past also saw stand-offs and intervention at the higher levels were resorted to defuse tension, they added.

Sources said the tension in the Depsang Plains was due to China blocking Indian patrol parties from accessing Patrol Points (PP) 10, 11, 11A, 12 and 13. That was due to the reason that the Indian patrols have to go beyond a feature called bottleneck area on foot.

Given the smooth withdrawal of troops from Pangong, sources said India was hopeful that pullback could take place soon from the other friction points too.

On February 11, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced in Parliament that India and China reached an agreement on disengagement in the North and South banks of Pangong lake that mandates 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 the east of Finger 8 areas in the northern bank of Pangong lake while the Indian personnel 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 as well, he said.

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.

At present, more than one lakh troops besides tanks and heavy artillery guns from both sides are deployed in forward areas near the LAC in Ladakh since the face-offs began in May last year. Incidentally, the first stand-off took place at the Pangong Lake. It saw the soldiers from two sides exchanging blows and some of them received injuries.

Sunday, 21 February 2021 | PNS | New Delhi

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