New Delhi: India and China have agreed to disengage from the Pangong Tso area in eastern Ladakh and go back to status quo ante after nearly nine months of stand-off, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh informed the Rajya Sabha Thursday as he explained what it entails.
Singh said that according to the agreement, Chinese troops will pull back from Finger 4 area in the northern banks of Pangong Tso to beyond Finger 8.
Similarly, India too will withdraw to the Dhan Singh Thapa post near Finger 3 of the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the area between this and Finger 8 will become a no-go zone for both sides, as reported by ThePrint earlier.
Similarly, disengagement will also take place at the southern banks of the Pangong Tso.
“I am happy to inform the House today that as a result of our well thought out approach and sustained talks with the Chinese side, we have now been able to reach an agreement on disengagement in the north and south bank of the Pangong Lake,” Singh said.
According to the disengagement plan, India and China will pull back armoured and mechanised columns first from the southern banks of Pangong Tso while thinning down at the northern banks.
The next phase of disengagement will take place only once this is verified, which will include pulling back soldiers from the heights in the southern banks.
Disengagement in phased, coordinated manner
Giving details of the disengagement, the Defence Minister said the agreement that both sides have reached envisages that both will cease their forward deployments in a phased, coordinated and verified manner.
“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,” he said.
He said these are mutual and reciprocal steps and any structures that had been built by both sides since April 2020 in both northern and southern banks 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,” he said.
The Defence Minister added that the implementation of this agreement started Wednesday on the northern and southern banks of the Pangong Lake.
“It will substantially restore the situation to that existing prior to commencement of the stand-off last year,” he said.
Singh said India’s 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,” he said.
Singh stressed that India has “not conceded anything” during these talks.
“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,” he said.
‘Indian forces maintained edge’
The Defence Minister said the Indian forces responded to the challenges posed by the unilateral Chinese action and have shown valour and courage on both the south and north banks 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,” he said.
Singh said that to ensure disengagement in friction points along the LAC, it was India’s 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 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.