Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday told the Parliament that India and China will remove deployments along the Pangong lake in Ladakh in a phased and coordinated manner. His statement confirmed a breakthrough in talks between the two countries to ease border tensions.
“I am happy to inform the House today that as a result of our well thought out approach and sustained talks with the Chinese side, we have now been able to reach an agreement on disengagement in the North and South Bank of the Pangong lake,” Singh said in his statement in the Rajya Sabha.
The defence minister added that senior commanders from both the sides will hold their next meeting within 48 hours after complete disengagement in the area, in order to address the remaining concerns.
Singh gave details about how the disengagement process will unfold. “The agreement that we have been able to reach with the Chinese side for disengagement in the Pangong lake area envisages that both sides will cease their forward deployments in a phased, coordinated and verified manner,” Singh said. “The Chinese side will keep its troop presence in the North Bank area to east of Finger 8. Reciprocally, the Indian troops will be based at their permanent base at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3.”
He added that similar actions would be taken in the South Bank area by both sides. “These are mutual and reciprocal steps and any structures that had been built by both sides since April 2020 in both North and South Bank area will be removed and the landforms will be restored,” said the minister.
Singh told the House that India has never accepted China’s “unjustified claims” and illegal occupation of the Indian territory. He added that India had not conceded anything in the multiple rounds of talks with China.
The defence minister added that India and China were yet to resolve some concerns related to deployment and patrolling at some other points along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh. “These will be the focus of further discussions with the Chinese side,” he said. “We have agreed that both sides should achieve complete disengagement at the earliest and abide fully by the bilateral agreements and protocols. By now, the Chinese side is also fully aware of our resolve. It is therefore our expectation that the Chinese side will work with us in full sincerity to resolve these remaining issues.”
The Chinese defence ministry had also announced that Beijing and New Delhi had started “synchronised and organised disengagement” from Wednesday “at the southern and northern bank of the Pangong Tso”.
Tensions between the two countries flared up in June after deadly clashes between soldiers in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed. China is believed to also have suffered casualties as well, but has not given any details.
The standoff has persisted with both sides bolstering forces along the border. Both India and China have accused each other of crossing into rival territory and of firing shots for the first time there in 45 years.
Several rounds of diplomatic and military level of talks have been held over the past few months to disengage troops. The ninth round of Corps Commander-level talks took place on January 24.