India and China have arrived at a “mutual consensus” to disengage on their disputed eastern Ladakh boundary, an Army official said on Tuesday after detailed talks between Corps Commanders on Monday.
The disengagement, eight days after 20 Indian soldiers were killed by Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley of Ladakh, came on a day Army chief M.M. Naravane visited his injured colleagues in a Leh hospital.
Beijing, too, echoed the sentiments expressed in New Delhi, with the Foreign Ministry spokesman welcoming the Corps Commander-level talks “to take necessary measures to cool down the situation”. He said arrangements towards de-escalation were being coordinated by the two militaries on the ground.
An Indian Army official, who wished not to be named, said, “The Corps Commander-level talks between India and China on June 22 were held at Moldo in a cordial, positive and constructive atmosphere. There was a mutual consensus to disengage. Modalities for disengagement from all friction areas in eastern Ladakh were discussed and will be taken forward by both the sides.”
Another Army official said the disengagement would be done from different places in a phased manner without giving a specific time frame or sequence. There would be more ground-level talks to take forward the disengagement.
In the first Corps Commander talks on June 6, both sides identified five locations of conflict — Patrolling Point (PP) 14, 15, 17A, North bank of Pangong Tso and Chushul — and agreed on limited “disengagement” in some of the places. But that consensus ended with the Galwan clash.
Interestingly, both rounds of talks between the Corps Commanders took place in Moldo, the designated meeting point on the Chinese side. They were reportedly sought by the Chinese side and hosted by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The Chinese Foreign Ministry rejected a statement made by Gen. V.K. Singh (retd.) that China lost more than 40 soldiers in the June 15 clash, terming it “false information”. Beijing has not revealed the number of casualties from the Galwan clash.
The Ministry said the holding of Monday’s Corps Commanders meeting, the first since the clash, “showed that the two sides hope to resolve differences, and control and ease the situation through dialogue and consultation”.
When asked about Monday’s agreement to disengage, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, “The relevant measures are being coordinated and arranged by the border forces of the two countries on the ground.”
The Ministry said both sides agreed to take forward the consensus reached on June 6.
“During the meeting, based on the consensus reached at the first Commander-level meeting, the two sides have had candid and in-depth exchange of views on outstanding issues related to border control, and agreed to take necessary measures to cool down the situation,” said Mr. Zhao. “The two sides agreed to maintain dialogue and work together for peace and tranquillity in border areas.”
To a query about Chinese casualties, Mr. Zhao said, “China and India are in dialogue and talks with each other to resolve this issue through diplomatic and military channels. As for what you saw in the media, for example some people alleged that casualties on the Chinese amounted to 40, I can tell you for sure this is false information.”
Naravane in Ladakh
Indian Army chief General Naravane, meanwhile, is on a two-day visit to review operational preparedness on the ground in Ladakh. “The Army chief will be visiting Ladakh for reviewing the ground situation, discuss the ongoing stand-off with ground commanders, visit forward locations and interact with troops on the ground,” a source said.
Upon reaching Leh, Gen. Naravane interacted with soldiers at the military hospital. This is his second visit to Ladakh since the stand-off with the Chinese troops that began in early May. He visited the Leh-based 14 Corps Headquarters on May 22.