The meeting between Corps Commanders of the Indian and Chinese armies ended Monday with “mutual consensus to disengage” with detailed discussions on the modalities of a sector-wise, stage-wise disengagement on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
But no timeline for the disengagement process was finalised at the meeting between XIV Corps Commander Lt General Harinder Singh and South Xinjiang Military Region Commander Major General Liu Lin. Hosted by the Chinese side at the Moldo border point opposite Chushul, the meeting lasted nearly 11 hours.
On Tuesday, Army chief General MM Naravane reached Leh on a two-day visit to Ladakh. He visited the Military Hospital, Leh and met the soldiers injured in the Galwan Valley clashes with Chinese troops on June 15 in which 20 Indian personnel were killed.
General Naravane, scheduled to visit forward areas in Ladakh Wednesday, was accompanied by Northern Army Commander Lt Gen YK Joshi who was in Delhi for the Army Commanders Conference. Over two days, the Army Commanders reviewed the situation on the northern and western fronts.
An official told The Indian Express that the Monday meeting at Moldo built on the understanding reached at the previous meeting of the Corps Commanders on June 6, and involved detailed discussions on “all the friction areas,” i.e., Galwan Valley, Hot Springs and Pangong Tso areas.
No timeline for the process has been decided yet, which will involve further meetings between local military commanders. The local commanders will decide the details based on the roadmap discussed at the Monday meeting, the official said. Dates for the meeting at the local commander level will be decided after mutual consultation by both sides later this week.
At the meeting Monday, Lt General Harinder Singh was accompanied by Major General Abhijit Bapat, GOC 3rd Infantry ‘Trishul’ Division, and IG Deepam Seth who commands ITBP’s North West Frontier. Brig Rajeev Kapur, Brig Bhavnish Kumar, Brig Puneet Ahuja, Brig Adarsh Verma and Brig H S Gill were the other senior members of the delegation, supported by six other working members.
The roadmap discussed at the meeting, the official said, was the one being followed earlier before “it was disrupted by that unfortunate incident” – a reference to the Galwan Valley incident. It means a sector-wise disengagement, starting from one of three friction areas and then moving on to other areas.
According to the official, within each sector, there will be stage-wise disengagement where soldiers from both sides will move back by a certain distance. This means that a de facto ‘buffer zone’ will be created by both sides in these areas on the LAC. It was during this stage-wise process of vacating a de facto ‘buffer zone’ in the Galwan Valley that soldiers of both sides clashed.
The stage-wise disengagement process will also involve shifting of military camps and reduction in strength of soldiers on both sides, the official said. Ever since tensions mounted in May, both sides have deployed a large number of troops all along the LAC in Ladakh.
The official underlined that discussions on disengagement at the meeting included the Pangong Tso area where the Chinese have come eight kilometres to the west of the LAC on the north bank of the lake and occupied the ridges. There has been “a consensus on ‘initial steps’ in the lake area,” the official said, without providing more details.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters: “The holding of the talks shows that both sides hope to properly handle differences and manage and ease the situation through dialogue and consultation. During the talks, the two sides, on the basis of the first commander-level talks, had an in-depth and candid exchange of views on outstanding issues in border management and control and agreed to take necessary measures to lower the temperature. Both agreed to keep up dialogue and work together for peace and tranquility on the ground along the border.”
Asked if both sides have agreed to disengage troops, Zhao said: “The relevant measures are coordinated and arranged by the border troops of the two countries on the ground. I have no further information to release.”
A meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation & Coordination (WMCC) on India-China Border Affairs is scheduled to be held Wednesday. The delegations for this meeting are led by diplomats from the foreign ministries of both countries for maintaining peace and tranquility in the border areas.
The WMCC was established in 2012 as an institutional mechanism for consultation and coordination for management of India-China border areas, as well as to exchange views on strengthening communication and cooperation, including between the border security personnel of the two sides.
Meanwhile, a government official in New Delhi reiterated that the decision after the June 15 incident to give a free hand to the local commanders to respond to any eventuality on the ground was not a unilateral action of the government, but was forced by the Chinese decision to violate all existing protocols and border agreements.
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