Three weeks after the worst military clashes in decades, India and China have begun the process of disengagement at contentious locations along the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC), a government source said on Monday.
The disengagement process, a work in progress, commenced after Special Representatives (SRs) Ajit Doval and Wang Yi, tasked to hammer out a solution to the boundary dispute, spoke by telephone on Sunday evening. The Hindu had reported on Sunday that the SRs would hold talks to resolve boundary tensions between the two countries.
In the first signs of de-escalation, Chinese troops moved back some distance and dismantled tents at some locations along the LAC.
In the Galwan Valley, Chinese troops have shifted two kilometres from the site of the June 15 violent clashes while some tents had been removed by the PLA at Finger 4 area of Pangong Tso, government officials said on Monday.
“The PLA was seen removing tents and structures at Patrolling Point (PP) 14. Some rearward movement of vehicles is seen at the general area of Galwan, Hotsprings and Gogra,” the government source said. Without giving the specific distances moved, the source said the pullback at each location would be confirmed after verification.
Separate statements from the Indian and Chinese governments after Mr. Doval and Mr. Wang’s talks suggested that both were keen to put an end to the serious troop build-up along their contentious boundary. Both statements stressed the need for a “complete” disengagement along the LAC.
At Pangong Tso, some tents have been removed from Finger 4 area and the PLA has moved back some distance, said a second government source without elaborating and added that details of the pullback had to be verified on the ground.
Pangong Tso issue
Pangong Tso is one of the most contentious areas of the current stand-offs, with the PLA moving about 8 km inside up to Finger 4. India’s claim is till Finger 8 as per the alignment of the LAC.
“Chinese troops have shifted two km from the face-off site in Galwan. Temporary structures being removed by both sides,” a senior government official told The Hindu adding that a physical verification had also been conducted.
The PLA had moved well within India’s perception of the LAC in the Galwan Valley after the June 15 incident, when 20 soldiers were killed. India had matched China’s presence with bunkers and temporary structures and the two armies were in “eyeball to eyeball” positions.
Corps Commander talks
As part of an understanding reached during the June 30 Corps Commander-level talks, on Sunday, a survey was done to verify if China had acted on its assurances.
A defence official said on the condition of anonymity that this was just the initial step in the phased disengagement process. It was during the “de-escalation” process on June 15 that the violent clash occurred in the Galwan Valley. The Chinese have given no figures on their dead and wounded.
As reported, the two military commanders indicated that at first the de-escalation would take place at all the friction points — Galwan, Pangong Tso, Hot Springs — and then “depth areas” such as Depsang plains in the north, where China had amassed troops, would be looked into.
On June 19, China’s Foreign Ministry said “the Galwan Valley was located on the Chinese side of the LAC in the western section of the Sino-Indian border”, suggesting it was making new claims in the area.