New Delhi: Indian and Chinese troops have started to disengage from the stand-off sites in the north and south banks of the Pangong-tso (Pangong lake) in eastern Ladakh, China’s defence ministry announced on Wednesday. Troops, tanks and infantry combat vehicles were engaged in a tense face-off between the Indian Army and China’s People’s Liberation Army in the area.
Officials in the Indian defence establishment, on the condition on anonymity, said although India was holding its positions on heights in the southern bank of Pangong-tso, currently only armoured vehicles are being pulled back. They indicated that the complete disengagement process will take a long time.
This development comes after the 9th round of corps commander-level talks between the two armies in January. In the meeting, both sides had agreed to push for early disengagement of their frontline troops.
On Wednesday, Chinese defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian, in a statement, said: “The Chinese and Indian frontline troops at the southern and northern bank of the Pangong-tso started synchronized and organized disengagement from February 10. This move is in accordance with the consensus reached by both sides at the 9th round of China-India corps commander-level meeting.”
However, India has officially not made any announcement on the development.
In the Pangong-tso area, India says it has sovereignty over territory up to Finger 8 while the China claims sovereignty up to Finger 4. According to the Indian sources in the defence establishment, the PLA will go back to Finger 8 while the Indian soldiers come back to Finger 2 and 3. They said both sides will not go for patrolling up to Finger 4. This will be done in a phased manner.
The Pangong-tso is one of the several friction points between the IA and the PLA in eastern Ladakh, where they are engaged in a stand-off since the last nine months. On June 15, Indian and Chinese troops had violent brawl in the Galwan valley, in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed while China suffered an unknown number of casualties.