NEW DELHI: Full bilateral military disengagement in the Pangong lake area in Eastern Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) could take more time than thought, as the wary Indian Army is using multiple modes to verify China’s reciprocal withdrawal of troops and equipment.
“We are not taking any chances this time. Additional verification mechanisms have been introduced. Apart from satellite and drone images, videography of the disengagement is also being done,” a senior Army officer said. The distrust stems from the problems the Chinese side had created both at Galwan and Hot Spring-Gogra in June last. Indian soldiers on their verification mission found partial disengagement in both sites, which snowballed into the major Galwan violence.
“We have differences in perception about the position of the LAC on the north bank of the Pangong lake. But on the ground, there is no confusion about it in the south bank.” Chinese troops coming to Finger 4 were actually present inside our claim line, but in the south bank, both sides are sitting in areas of their claim lines. As per the agreements, Chinese troops will relocate to the east of Finger 8 and the Indian Army will be based at Dhan Singh Thapa post close to Finger 4 on the north bank of the lake.
As of now, withdrawal of armoured vehicles has been completed from around five locations. “The tanks were as close as 50 metres apart at some points. Now they have moved back to their administrative bases into the rear,” another Army officer said.
Meanwhile, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said that the agreement to disengage at Pangong was reached after several round of talks. “The two sides have also agreed to convene 10th round of senior commanders meeting within 48 hours after complete disengagement in the Pangong lake area, to address the remaining issues,” he said.
Welcome step: US
“We’re closely following reports of initial troop disengagement. We welcome the ongoing efforts to de-escalate,” a US State Department spokesperson said.