A three week-long stand-off between Chinese and Indian troopers at the Daulat Beg Oldi sector of Ladakh ended suddenly on Sunday, when a People’s Liberation Army platoon withdrew from Indian territory and returned to their barracks across the Line of Actual Control in Jammu and Kashmir.
According to diplomatic and military sources, the Indian side reciprocated the Chinese gesture and withdrew from the stand-off point, back to their pre-April 15 positions, to ensure that peace is restored to the Sino-Indian border.
The truce, sources said, came about at the fourth flag meeting between the two militaries after long-drawn negotiations that were facilitated successfully at various levels between the governments and the militaries.
“Intensive diplomatic contacts led by Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, coordinating with military authorities and (India’s) Ambassador S Jai Shankar in Beijing, led to a flag meeting in which the face-to-face situation was resolved,” sources said.
The dramatic turn of events took place around 7.30 pm on Sunday, just four days ahead of a scheduled visit to Beijing by Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on May 9. Khurshid is to visit China to finalise the agenda for an official visit by China Premier Li Keqiang on May 20.
The two sides had held three flag meetings to resolve the issue, only to fail miserably, amidst indications that the Chinese were at Debsang bulge’s Raki Nullah for a long haul. Beijing, all this while, had maintained that their troopers had not transgressed the LAC, whereas the Indian side wanted them to move back to their locations about 25 km away from the stand-off point from where they had come into what is being perceived as Indian territory on April 15.
Though both New Delhi and Beijing had confirmed that Khurshid will go ahead with his visit, the Minister had expressed doubts over his trip in the wake of unsatisfactory bilateral efforts to resolve the stand-off in Ladakh.
With this positive development for the UPA, which has faced flak for its diplomacy ineptness over the Chinese issue, Khurshid’s Beijing trip seems definite. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other government leaders had maintained that the military situation was a localised issue, which needed to be resolved through negotiations.