Indo Tibetan Border Police personnel near the bank of Pangong lake, in Ladakh. (PTI file)
Indo Tibetan Border Police personnel near the bank of Pangong lake, in Ladakh. (PTI file)

Indian, Chinese troops begin to disengage at Pangong lake: China

According to the consensus reached at the 9th round of military commander-level talks, the frontline units of the Chinese and Indian armed forces have begun to disengage at Pangong lake on February 10, a Chinese defence ministry spokesperson said.
By Sutirtho Patranobis I Edited by Vinod JanardhananSutirtho Patranobis I Edited by Vinod Janardhanan
UPDATED ON FEB 10, 2021 07:21 PM IST

Indian and Chinese troops have begun to disengage from the southern and northern banks of the Pangong lake, the Chinese defence ministry announced on Wednesday.

In a statement published on the Chinese defence ministry website, spokesperson Wu Qian said that according to the consensus reached at the 9th round of military commander-level talks, the frontline units of the Chinese and Indian armed forces have begun to disengage at the southern and northern banks of the Pangong lake on February 10.

“The Chinese and Indian frontline troops at the southern and northern bank of the Pangong Tso Lake start synchronised and organised disengagement from February 10,” said the statement. “This move is in accordance with the consensus reached by both sides at the 9th round of China-India Corps Commander Level Meeting.”

The Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de facto border between India and China, passes through the lake, parts of which are controlled by the Indian and Chinese militaries.

The details of the disengagement were not shared by the Chinese defence ministry, but it possibly indicates a movement towards resolving the nine-month military standoff between the two neighbours across multiple points in eastern Ladakh.

The 9th round of China-India Corps Commander Level meeting was held on the Chinese side of the Moldo-Chushul border meeting point on January 24.

At the meeting, the two sides had “…agreed to push for an early disengagement of the frontline troops. They also agreed to follow the important consensus of their state leaders, maintain the good momentum of dialogue and negotiation, and hold the 10th round of the Corps Commander Level Meeting at an early date to jointly advance de-escalation.”

The two sides agreed to continue their effective efforts in ensuring the restraint of the frontline troops, stabilise and control the situation along the LAC in the western Sector of the China-India border, and jointly maintain peace and tranquility, a statement from the Chinese defence ministry said.

The announcement on disengagement comes just two days ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year on Friday. It also comes two days after the Chinese foreign ministry said Indian minister VK Singh’s statement on the Indian army transgressing across the LAC more than Chinese troops was an “unwitting confession”.

Interestingly, the nationalistic tabloid the Global Times had reported in November that China and India had agreed to “implement a disengagement plan under reciprocal principle with the premise that India should firstly withdraw staff who illegally crossed lines on the southern side of the Pangong Tso Lake.”

“India should first withdraw staff who illegally crossed the line on the southern side of the Pangong Tso Lake, and China will then consider disengaging on the northern side of the lake,” the tabloid had reported quoting anonymous sources.

The announcement of disengagement from China is also markedly different from the resolution of military tension during the 2017 Doklam standoff: The two countries had issued simultaneous statements on troop withdrawals unlike this time.

The Indian ministry of external affairs had said on August 28, 2017 that the “two sides” had agreed to defuse the crisis in Doklam, near the Sikkim border.

The Indian ministry of external affairs had then said the “two sides” had agreed to defuse the crisis following diplomatic talks.

Qian Feng, director of the Research Department at the National Strategy Institute at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, said Wednesday’s announcement was a positive move.

“The agreement between the two sides to withdraw troops before the Chinese lunar calendar Spring Festival is good news, not only to avoid a continued decline of Sino-Indian current relations, but also to ease tensions along the border between the two countries and reduce the possibility of friction and conflict in the short term,” Qian said.

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