A day after it emerged that Indian and Chinese troops have begun moving back from standoff positions at different points in the Galwan and Hot Spring areas of Ladakh, Beijing said on Wednesday that the two sides have started implementing the “positive consensus” reached by senior commanders of the two countries on June 6 and are taking steps to “ease” the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
This is the first official response from the Chinese government, while the Indian side has not issued any statement so far.
Meanwhile, the two sides held Major General-level talks, which lasted over four hours, on Wednesday. Sources said the Indian side pressed for restoration of status quo ante, reiterating that troops should move back to the positions held in April-end, before the standoff began. The Indian side also sought reduction in the number of Chinese troops in the region.
In Beijing, asked about reports of troops on both sides disengaging and moving back to their previous positions, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing that both the countries are taking steps to ease the situation along the borders.
“Recently, the diplomatic and military channels of China and India held effective communication on the situation along the border and reached positive consensus,” she said. “The two sides are following this consensus to take actions to ease the situation along the borders,” she added.
On Monday, Beijing had said both sides agree that there is need to implement the “consensus” among the leaders of the two countries, and ensure that “differences do not escalate into disputes”.
The Chinese spokesperson had said that both sides had maintained “close” communication; in today’s statement, the spokesperson said there was “effective communication” — signalling a forward movement in the negotiations.
The movement at the border has been perceived as the first possible sign of de-escalation along the LAC. However, Indian officials have cautioned that it should be seen as a “first step” towards a long, phased and gradual process of disengagement, and there should be no expectation of immediate or quick withdrawal of troops and weaponry.
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The disengagement process may take weeks. “Physical verification as well as satellite imagery will help us in complete disengagement,” sources said.
Deployments by both sides took place over the last one month, and it will take them time to step back.
Army sources have confirmed that troops moved back on either side after the meeting between XIV Corps Commander Lt General Harinder Singh and South Xinjiang Military District Commander Major General Liu Lin at the Chushul-Moldo border point on June 6.
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It was decided that officers at division, brigade and battalion levels would hold discussions to settle local issues for further de-escalation. Resolution of the Pangong Tso standoff may require another meeting at the level of Corps or Division Commanders, sources had said.
The two sides were involved in faceoffs at five locations: Patrol Points 14, 15 and 17, Finger area of Pangong Tso and Chushul. While troops are stepping back in other areas, the standoff continues in the contested Fingers area on the north bank of Pangong Tso where Chinese troops are not allowing Indian patrols beyond Finger 4 — it is 8 km west of Finger 8 which India says denotes the LAC.
After the meeting of the Indian and Chinese army commanders, the Ministry of External Affairs had said on Sunday: “Both sides agreed to peacefully resolve the situation in the border areas in accordance with various bilateral agreements and keeping in view the agreement between the leaders that peace and tranquility in the India-China border regions is essential for the overall development of bilateral relations.” There has been no statement from the Indian government since then.
With inputs from Krishn Kaushik, New Delhi
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