Deepened diplomatic engagement with China finally ended the 21-day border standoff in eastern Ladakh on Sunday, with both armies agreeing to simultaneously pull out of the site and go back to pre-April 15 positions.
“They began cleaning up on Sunday evening. By morning, everything will be back to normal,” a government source said.
Now that the border impasse has ended, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid will go ahead with his two-day visit to China beginning May 9, paving the way for the Chinese premier’s visit to India shortly after.
Indian soldiers were eyeball-to-eyeball with the Chinese in the Daulat Beg Oldie sector since April 15, after Chinese troops set up tents and took up positions 19 km into Indian territory.
Intensive diplomatic negotiations led by foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai over the weekend, with assistance from Indian ambassador in Beijing S Jaishankar, led to a fourth flag meeting on Saturday and a breakthrough on Sunday evening.
It is learnt that at Saturday’s brigadier-level meet in Spangur Gap near Chushul, Chinese troops called for a unilateral withdrawal by India from the faceoff site.
But the Indian side is understood to have told them a one-sided pullout was unacceptable, proposing simultaneous disengagement by both armies.
China had repeatedly asked the Indian Army to stop infrastructure build-up and construction of bunkers in the Fukche and Chumar regions of Ladakh, as a pre-condition for withdrawing its troops.
It is not clear what Chinese demands New Delhi may have conceded to in order to resolve the impasse.
“Quid pro quo is the name of the game,” sources said.
The Chinese contention was that some of the build-ups along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) were in violation of protocols governing borders that have not been mutually delineated.
Three previous flag meetings to defuse the border tension had flopped with China objecting to increased military activity, aggressive patrolling by the Indian Army and ramping up of infrastructure on the Indian side of the LAC.
In the changed circumstances, the defence ministry is also likely to clear a significant military visit to China this week.
The ministry was earlier reconsidering a proposed visit by senior military officials and bureaucrats to China beginning May 11.
About 15 officers of the rank of brigadier from the National Defence College, India's premier school for grooming future leaders, are slated to visit China and Thailand.