LAC standoff | Chinese troops are yet to fully move out, says government official

Chinese troops within 1.5 km of Indian claim line at PP-15, the senior official says.

Updated - July 18, 2020 04:43 am IST

Published - July 17, 2020 06:31 pm IST - New Delhi

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh witnesses military exercises at Stakna, in Leh on July 17, 2020. Photo: Twitter/@DefenceMinIndia via PTI

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh witnesses military exercises at Stakna, in Leh on July 17, 2020. Photo: Twitter/@DefenceMinIndia via PTI

Chinese troops are yet to fully move out of Patrolling Point (PP) 15 of Hot Springs area in Eastern Ladakh and continue to occupy positions within 1.5 km of India’s perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), a second assessment of the ground situation by security agencies has revealed.

Chinese troops had at one stage entered around 5 km on the Indian side of PP-15 in May, and as per a disengagement plan, moved back 2.5 km and another 1 km in subsequent phases and around 1.5 km was yet to be vacated, a senior government official told The Hindu . In this area, Indian troops have also moved back around 2.5 km, the official said.

Also read: LAC standoff | No one can touch an inch of India’s land: Rajnath Singh

As reported by The Hindu, there is a moratorium on foot patrol for 30 days and a strength of not more than 80 (50+30 at two intervals) troops at all the friction points where disengagement has been implemented.

After the Galwan Valley incident, the flashpoint of June 15 violent clashes when 20 soldiers were killed , the Corps Commanders of the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had agreed to disengage and withdraw fully from other face-off sites along the LAC. They have held four rounds of talks so far on June 6, 22 and 30 and July 14 to disengage and de-escalate from the build-up areas in Gogra- Hot Springs and Finger area along Pangong Tso (lake).

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The official said that at some places, disengagement has not been as expected but considerable progress had been made after the talks were scaled up to the level of ‘Special Representative on Boundary Question' on July 5. India was represented by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and China by Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

“In all the four rounds of Corps Commander talks, it was vehemently impressed upon the Chinese that the pullback of troops as per the disengagement agreement does not mean the final settlement of the boundary. This is temporary,” said the official.

LAC standoff | Lesson from Doklam: No de-escalation until full return of status quo

A second official said that after the third round of talks on June 30, it was decided that Chinese troops would completely withdraw from PP-15 in the Hot Springs area.

“Due to the terrain and other factors, the verification process is slow. While the Chinese troops had agreed to move back from PP-15, our assessment finds that they are well within 1.5 km of India’s perception of the LAC,” the official said.

At PP-17, the strength of Chinese troops had reduced from 3,000 to around 150 personnel. Indian and Chinese troops were around 500-600 metres apart here, the official stated, adding that at PP-16, Indian and Chinese troops were positioned almost 20 km away from each other.

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The first official said, “At none of the places, there is an eyeball to eyeball deployment now. But we remain cautious of the Chinese claims and this is going to be a long haul”.

Intricate process: Army

The Army said in a statement on Thursday that the disengagement process was “ intricate and requires constant verification .”

At Pangong Tso, the Chinese have moved back from Finger 4 to 5. Indian troops also have moved back to Finger 2, almost till the D.S post, the base post in the area where the troops initiated their patrols before the Chinese build-up.

LAC standoff | Chinese troops shift 2 km from Galwan Valley clash site

“We are not expecting any change in Pangong all at once. The withdrawal will be done stage-wise and the understanding over this has continuously improved,” said the first official.

The fourth round of Commander level talks on July 14 at Chushul went on for 15 hours, when the two sides worked out details of the next phase of disengagement as well as complete withdrawal of forces along the LAC.

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