Indian and Chinese troops began partial “disengagement” from the some of the standoff points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh, defence sources said on June 9, in a first sign of moving towards resolution of the month long standoff between the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army there.
A series of ground level military talks are due to be held over the next 10 days, beginning Wednesday, to try and resolve most of the other issues at the local level.
Also read | A phantom called the Line of Actual Control
“Partial deinduction has happened from some points in Galwan and Hot Springs areas. [The] Chinese side removed some of the tents and some troops and vehicles have been moved back, and the Indian side too has reciprocated,” official sources said. At some points in the Galwan Valley, Chinese troops have moved back 2-3 km. However, there is no change on the ground situation at Pangong Tso. While this is the first time officials spoke about the ground situation, no government statement was issued, either in Delhi or Beijing.
This is also the first time senior government officials have acknowledged the continued presence of Chinese troops in these areas where India patrols, and the heavy build-up of vehicles and firepower behind the LAC lines. Despite references to the major build-up that had taken place, officials insisted that there had been “no intelligence failure” and that the Indian Army stopped the PLA advances “quickly and strongly”.
Outlining the plans for talks on de-escalation, the sources said Major General level talks were scheduled on Wednesday at Patrolling Point (PP) 14 in Galwan area as part of the series of talks at the rank of Colonel, Brigadier and Major General, as had been decided at Corps Commander level meeting on Saturday at the LAC at Moldo-Chushul. Both the Corps Commanders had a one-on-one meeting for almost three hours before engaging at the delegation level where the main issues were discussed further, they said.
At the meeting, both sides agreed and identified five locations of conflict currently, PP 14, 15 and 17, North bank of Pangong Tso and Chushul. Of these, Finger 4 area in Pangong Tso was a contentious issue and would take some time to be resolved, the sources said. This would likely be taken up at the Lieutenant General level at a later stage if needed.
Pangong Tso issue
However, major worries remain at the Pangong Tso (lake), where territory is marked by ridges or “Fingers” in increasing serial order, towards Chinese territory. India claims upto Finger 8 and patrols upto Finger 4, but after a major skirmish on May 5, Chinese troops have dug in at Finger 4. No mention was made of the situation at Naku La in Sikkim, where the stand-off continues, as the focus for these talks was the Ladakh situation.
The sources stressed that India remained “firm” on restoring the Status quo to pre-May 5 positions, and that apart from troops retreating from the “front lines”, it was necessary to ensure a drawdown of troops and firepower behind the Chinese lines where the PLA had deployed “fighter bombers, rocket forces, air defence radars and jammers among others”.
“India will continue to have a major build-up until China withdraws the build-up done there. The Indian Army is fully prepared for a long and permanent deployment if the PLA doesn't retreat,” the sources stated.
As reported earlier, the Indian side also told the Chinese counterparts that it would not stop construction, including the DBO road, as it is well within Indian territory.
Underscoring the efforts to resolve the tensions, which they referred to as “episodic issues”, the sources said that tactical level hotlines at border meeting points at Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO)- Tien Wein Dien (TWD) and Chushul-Moldo remain “on and open”. It has also been proposed that the Corps Commanders should have formal meetings once or twice every year for better interaction between the two armies at a higher level.