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Ahead of SCO meet, Indian & Chinese troops begin disengagement in Ladakh’s Hot Springs

Disengagement in critical areas such as Depsang Plains and Demchok in Eastern Ladakh is still stuck and is likely to take more time.

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New Delhi: Breaking a long-standing gridlock, Indian and Chinese troops Thursday began to disengage from the Hot Springs (PP-15) area in Eastern Ladakh, a move that came days before the crucial meet of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

“On 8th September 2022, according to the consensus reached in the 16th round of India- China Corps Commander Level Meeting, the Indian and Chinese troops in the area of Gogra-Hot Springs (PP-15) have begun to disengage in a coordinated and planned way, which is conducive to the peace and tranquillity in the border areas,” a joint statement issued by both armies said.

This is the last disengagement that was to take place from the locations which witnessed standoff between the Indian and Chinese militaries in May 2020. However, disengagement in Depsang Plains and Demchok in Eastern Ladakh, which predates May 2020, is yet to be restored.

The Indian Army sees Depsang Plains as the most critical flash point, with sources in the defence and security establishment telling ThePrint that even though it is a legacy issue, the area saw massive deployment changes and build-up by the Chinese since May 2020.

The last disengagement took place from Gogra sector (PP-17A) in August last year.

Thursday’s disengagement comes just days before the SCO summit in Uzbekistan on 15-16 September, which is likely to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Sources in the defence and security establishment told ThePrint that once the disengagement is complete, the focus will be on de-escalation which would entail pulling back over 50,000 additional troops and equipment deployed in forward areas along the LAC after tensions broke out.

On the latest development, the sources said that while a consensus was reached on the need to disengage, during the last Corps Commander level talks, finer points had to be discussed in terms of the exact distance to which each side will pull back and by when.

Sources also said that according to the agreement, both sides have dismantled temporary living arrangements which were set up and pulled back the troops to the “desired distance”.

While they remained tight-lipped on the exact distance, sources said both sides have to respect each other’s perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and this meant the pull back of troops by “over one kilometre”.


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Disengagement first agreed upon in 2020

When asked how many soldiers have disengaged, the sources said there were around 200 soldiers in the face-off initially but the numbers came down to about 50 later.

Also asked if both sides will start undertaking patrolling, the sources said no patrolling will take place to PP 15, till further modalities are worked out.

Disengagement in Hot Springs was first agreed upon in July 2020, almost immediately after the Galwan Valley clashes.

ThePrint had on 18 July reported that during the last Corps Commander level talks, both sides exchanged certain proposals regarding disengagement in the Hot Springs area.

The delegations will convey the proposals to their respective higher authorities before engaging in further exchanges.


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