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After Chinese pullback, Indian troops also move 1.5 km away from Galwan Valley clash site

This June 18, 2020, satellite photo released by Planet Labs, shows the reported site of a fatal clash between Indian and Chinese troops in the Galwan River Valley in the Ladakh region near the Line of Actual Control.

This June 18, 2020, satellite photo released by Planet Labs, shows the reported site of a fatal clash between Indian and Chinese troops in the Galwan River Valley in the Ladakh region near the Line of Actual Control.   | Photo Credit: AP

The Indian Army, which till now was patrolling up to Patrol Point 14, the site of the June 15 clash, will not be able to do so for the next 30 days

Indian troops have moved back 1.5 km from the site of the June 15 clash at the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, creating a buffer zone, which will be off-limits for foot patrolling by them for the next 30 days, a senior government official has told The Hindu.

This is as per the agreement reached during the Corps Commander-level talks on June 30.

According to a defence source, the Chinese have fully moved out of the Patrol Point 14 area, the clash site, and thinning down of troops is under way at Hot Springs and Gogra, which could take two or three days to complete.

Marginal at Pangong Tso

However, sources termed the disengagement by China at Pangong Tso as marginal.

“At Galwan, only 30 people on each side are deployed now; the distance between them is 3.6-4 km, the agreed buffer zone. The primary objective of the first phase of disengagement was to have no eyeball-to-eyeball positions, which has been achieved through this arrangement. The next layer of deployment of 50 personnel on each side is about 1 km further behind. Within 6 km, there are just 80 people on both sides,” the official said.

The Indian Army, which used to patrol till Patrol Point 14 until the recent stand-off, could lose that right if a final solution is not found, said an official.

The official said this was a cause of concern as the Chinese had entered well within the Indian perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The defence source cited above said that the initial process of disengagement at several places and the verification is expected to take two weeks, stating that it is going to be a long process for full disengagement.

Another round of talks will be held after that to take the process forward.

On the activity at Finger 4 area of Pangong Tso, two defence sources independently said while some tents have been removed and some troops and vehicles have moved back, the movement is marginal unlike other areas and is being closely watched.

The level of disengagement so far at Finger 4 is minuscule, considering the heavy buildup the Chinese have undertaken between Finger 4 to Finger 8, the defence source stated.

“Till that bend (PP 14), where the clash took place, India has built a road. The point where the Indian troops have retreated now is the point where the Army used to initiate its patrols. As per the moratorium, India will not be able to patrol the distance now and this will have to be seriously worked out. It cannot be turned into a permanent arrangement,” said the official.

Rivers in spate

A 2017 photo of a banner erected by the Indian army near Pangong Tso lake near the India-China border in Ladakh.

A 2017 photo of a banner erected by the Indian army near Pangong Tso lake near the India-China border in Ladakh.   | Photo Credit: AP

 

The official added that with the Galwan and Shyok rivers in spate due to the monsoon, it was not in the interest of both India and China to stay put there.

“The Chinese are now claiming the entire Galwan Valley but this was not the case earlier. They transgressed when they saw culverts, bridges and roads being constructed this side...culminating in the June 15 violent clashes,” said the official.

While the disengagement is underway, defence sources have expressed caution on the outcome. A second defence source cited three cases as reason for exercising extreme caution. The first instance is of Chinese claims on Galwan Valley. In 1959, China had agreed to area of Patrolling Point (PP) 14 and there has been no cases of faceoffs, no patrolling by China and very rare helicopter recce till recently, he said.

“In April 2020, China started objecting to construction of a bridge at the mouth of the Galwan and now are claiming beyond earlier stance of 1959 stating entire Galwan belongs to China. As the events unfolded, PLA claim shifted to Nala junction which is 800m on the Indian side of China’s claim of 1959,” the source stated.

The other instance is of Naku La in North Sikkim where China is creating a dispute by disregarding “principle of watershed”. The third instance is of China pushing Nepal to not only make claims in Lipulekh area and publish new maps but also to deploy new border posts, , the source said.

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2020 6:14:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/after-chinese-pullback-indian-troops-also-move-15-km-away-from-galwan-valley-clash-site-official/article32009878.ece

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