NEW DELHI: In a positive turn to the nine-month old tense standoff at the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh, Indian and Chinese military have begun disengagement at Pangong on Wednesday and it will be done in a “phased, coordinated and verified manner” restoring the situation that was before the commencement of standoff last year, said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday.
Deployment and patrolling at other standoff points will be discussed subsequently.
Addressing the members of the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) Rajnath Singh said, “The Chinese side will keep its troop presence in the North Bank area to east of Finger 8. Reciprocally, the Indian troops will be based at their permanent base at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3.” A similar action would be taken in the South Bank area by both sides, he said.
Talking about the details of the agreements with China Defence Minister said, “It has also been agreed to have a temporary moratorium on military activities by both sides in the North Bank, including patrolling to the traditional areas. Patrolling will be resumed only when both sides reach an agreement in diplomatic and military talks that would be held subsequently.”
The standoff in the Eastern Ladakh started in the first week of May month last year from Finger 4 as the Chinese and Indian troops had clashed. Subsequently it had spread to several standoff points along the LAC ahead of the LAC in the North and South banks of the Pangong Tso.
The Chinese side had since April/May 2020 amassed large number of troops and armaments in the border areas adjacent to Eastern Ladakh. Structures were also built by both sides which the minister said will be removed. “These are mutual and reciprocal steps and any structures that had been built by both sides since April 2020 in both North and South Bank area will be removed and the landforms will be restored.”
It has also been agreed to convene the next meeting of the Senior Commanders within 48 hours after the complete disengagement in the Pangong Lake area so as to address and resolve all other remaining issues.
Rajnath Singh clarified that nothing has been conceded as part of the agreements and other standoff points will be discussed subsequently. "I want to assure this House that in these talks we have not conceded anything. The House should also know that there are still some outstanding issues with regard to deployment and patrolling at some other points along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh. These will be the focus of further discussions with the Chinese side.We have agreed that both sides should achieve complete disengagement at the earliest and abide fully by the bilateral agreements and protocols," said the Minister.
The Defence Minister also briefly recapitulated the main aspects of the situation on the ground. "As the House is aware, China illegally occupied approximately 38,000 sq. kms in the Union Territory of Ladakh, mainly during the 1962 conflict. In addition, under the so-called Sino-Pakistan 'Boundary Agreement' of 1963, Pakistan illegally ceded 5,180 sq. kms. of Indian territory in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to China. China, thus is in illegal occupation of more than 43,000 sq. kms of Indian territory. It also claims approximately 90,000 sq. kms. of Indian territory in the Eastern Sector of the India-China boundary in Arunachal Pradesh. India has never accepted this illegal occupation of our territory or the unjustified claims."
The actions by the Chinese side since last year have seriously disturbed peace and tranquility. Consequently, they have also had an impact on the overall relationship. Since September 2020, based on the policy guidance, military and diplomatic officials of both sides have met several times to work out a mutually acceptable solution for disengagement. Till date, there have been 9 rounds of meetings of the Senior Commanders of both sides.
Diplomatic talks have continued in parallel under the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC). It was made that the foremost need was to ensure disengagement in all the friction points along the LAC in the Western Sector so as to help restore peace and tranquility.