The border stand-off between India and China in the cold plains of Depsang in eastern Ladakh ended on Sunday evening with both the countries withdrawing their troops to their original positions and removing the temporary camps.
After the debacle of three flag meetings that were called by India to defuse the situation,the agreement to end the troop face-off that had soured bilateral relations after a Chinese patrol party set up a temporary camp 10 km inside the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on April 15 was reached after the Chinese side initiated two back-to-back flag meetings to discuss disengagement.
The development follows consultations at the level of National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon and Indian ambassador to China S Jaishankar. While the resolution was reached diplomatically,the modalities will be discused at another flag meeting scheduled to be held on Monday to authenticate the withdrawal of troops.
Sources said the Chinese side called a flag meeting on Saturday and their first proposal was that Indian troops should withdraw from their current position in Depsang,where they have pitched tents opposite a Chinese encampment,after which they could consider a withdrawal.
The Indian side,on the other hand,stuck to its stand on Saturday that the process of disengagement should be a simultaneous withdrawal of forces from the site that is 10 km inside the Indian side of the LAC.
Sources said that after the meeting on Saturday,the Chinese side again called for a flag meet on Sunday to further discuss the proposals. While details are not yet available,sources said the disengagement took place after both sides reached a mutual agreement on the matter.
However,the devil would lie in the details as China has not given up its demands that concrete structures and fortifications that have been built by India on its side of the border need to be destroyed. Specific objections have been made to Indian positions in Chumar.
After the failure of the first three flag meetings in which these demands had been raised,the Indian side had decided that it would not initiate any more meetings in the near future,especially since the third meet was set up after the joint border mechanism had apparently agreed on certain aspects of a simultaneous withdrawal.
However,when the two sides met on April 30 for the third meeting,the tone and tenor was completely different and the Chinese local commander stuck to their original position,leaving little room for a resolution.
While the mood has now changed with the two latest back-to-back meetings and the agreement to disengage,trust levels remain low and the Indian side will maintain a keen lookout on the border in coming days.
The face-off in Ladakh had also cast a shadow over the visit of External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to China on May 9,to prepare the ground for the new Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiangs visit to India from May 20.
The build-up,five flag meetings
April 15: Chinese set up temporary camp 10 km inside Indian side of LAC in Depsang.
April 18: India calls flag meeting; Chinese troops maintain they have not crossed border.
April 23: Second flag meeting; China demands destruction of Indian bunkers in Ladakh.
April 30: Third flag meet fails; India decides not to call any more flag meetings.
May 4: China calls flag meeting; India demands mutual withdrawal.
May 5: China calls another flag meeting; both sides return to original positions behind LAC.
May 9: External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid set to leave for Beijing.