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Monday, March 08, 2021

Pangong disengagement commences, Rajnath says next talks to focus on other friction points

PLA troops to return east of Finger 8, Indians near Finger 3. Tanks start disengaging south of lake, north bank stretch to be no-go zone for now.

Written by Krishn Kaushik | New Delhi |
Updated: February 11, 2021 8:52:25 pm
india china border, india china border disengagement, india china border news, india china standoff, rajnath singh, rajnath singh on china border dispute, india china disengagement, ladakh disengagement, Ladakh standoff, India china ties, galwan standoff, pangong tso, india china disengagement, india china disengagement plan, india china disengagement agreement​Indian and Chinese armies pulling back their military tanks from the Pangong Tso region. (Source: Indian Army)

Chinese and Indian armoured units have started disengaging south of Pangong Tso as a first step towards resolving the nine-month military standoff along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh.

As part of the process, Chinese troops will pull back from Finger 4 to east of Finger 8 on the Pangong north bank – they had come in 8 km west of Finger 8 which India says marks the LAC. Indian troops will be stationed at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3. For the time being, the stretch separating them will be a no-patrolling zone.

Confirming the start of the process on the north and south banks of Pangong Tso, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told both Houses of Parliament Thursday that China and India have reached an agreement under which “both sides will cease their forward deployments in a phased, coordinated and verified manner”.

Referring to the other friction points in Galwan Valley, Hot Springs, Gogra Post and Depsang Plains, where troops of the two countries are still in a faceoff, Singh said: “I want to assure this House that in these talks we have not conceded anything. The House should also know that there are still some outstanding issues with regard to deployment and patrolling at some other points along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh. These will be the focus of further discussions with the Chinese side.”

“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.”

His statement in Parliament came a day after the Chinese Defence Ministry announced the start of the Pangong disengagement process.

Singh told Parliament that implementation of the agreement began Wednesday. “It has also been agreed to convene the next meeting of the Senior Commanders within 48 hours after the complete disengagement in the Pangong Lake area so as to address and resolve all other remaining issues.”

“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. A similar action 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.”

“It has also been agreed to have a temporary moratorium on military activities by both sides in the North Bank, including patrolling to the traditional areas. Patrolling will be resumed only when both sides reach an agreement in diplomatic and military talks that would be held subsequently. The implementation of this agreement has started yesterday in the North and South Bank of the Pangong Lake. It will substantially restore the situation to that existing prior to commencement of the standoff last year,” he said.

india china border, india china border disengagement, india china border news, india china standoff, rajnath singh, rajnath singh on china border dispute, india china disengagement, ladakh disengagement, Ladakh standoff, India china ties, galwan standoff, pangong tso, india china disengagement, india china disengagement plan, india china disengagement agreement​ India and China military commanders during the disengagement process. (Source: Indian Army)

Recalling his September 2020 statement in the House where “I had highlighted that the Chinese side had since April/May 2020 amassed large number of troops and armaments in the border areas adjacent to Eastern Ladakh” and how they had “made several attempts to transgress the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in various parts,” Singh said: “Since last September, both sides have maintained communication with each other through military and diplomatic channels. Our objective was to effect disengagement and maintain status quo along the LAC so as to restore peace and tranquility.”

“The actions by the Chinese side since last year have seriously disturbed peace and tranquility. Consequently, they have also had an impact on the overall relationship. In our various high-level interactions with the Chinese side, including in my own meeting with the Chinese Defence Minister last September, my colleague, the External Affairs Minister Shri Jaishankarji’s meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister and NSA Shri Doval’s conversation with his Chinese counterpart, we have made it clear that the foremost need was to ensure disengagement in all the friction points along the LAC in the Western Sector so as to help restore peace and tranquility.”

“I am proud to say that our Armed Forces have responded to the challenges posed by the unilateral Chinese action and have shown valour and courage on both South and North bank of Pangong Tso. Many strategically important points were identified and our troops positioned themselves at those Hill Tops and at locations which were very important from our point of view. It is because of this great bravery of our Armed Forces in the face of harsh adverse climatic conditions that we maintained the edge.”

On the diplomatic and military talks with China, Singh said: “In these discussions, we have maintained the three key principles that determine our approach: (i) both sides should strictly respect and observe the LAC; (ii) neither side should attempt to alter the status quo unilaterally; and (iii) all agreements and understandings between the two sides must be fully abided by in their entirety. To ensure disengagement in friction points along the LAC, it was our view that troops of both sides, who are now in close proximity, should vacate the forward deployments made in 2020 and return to the permanent and accepted bases.”

“Our approach and strategy for negotiations with the Chinese side has been guided at the highest level by the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s resolve that we will not give even an inch of Indian territory. Our tenacity and approach during talks have yielded results,” he said.

Praising the armed forces, Singh said: “Our nation will always remember the sacrifices made by our brave soldiers which has been the foundation of this disengagement at Pangong Tso.”

“I am confident that this entire House, irrespective of political affiliations, is united together for upholding our sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity and national security. And further, this House is one in sending out the same message demonstrating the strength and unity of our nation to the entire world,” he said.

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