New Delhi: India and China have completed troop disengagement from the Gogra area of eastern Ladakh, after 15 months of a “sensitive face-off”, the Army announced Friday.
The disengagement process, which includes removal of all temporary structures and other allied infrastructure by both sides, and restoration of landform to “pre-stand-off period”, was carried out over two days, that is 4 and 5 August, the Army said in a statement.
“As per the agreement, both sides have ceased forward deployments in this area in a phased, coordinated and verified manner… The troops of both sides are now in their respective permanent bases,” the Army added.
The development comes days after the 12th round of corps-commander-level talks between India and China, which were held on 31 July at the Chushul-Moldo meeting point on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Sources in the defence and security establishment told ThePrint that as part of the disengagement process, which was first initiated in the area in 2020 but not completed by China, a buffer zone has been created. No patrolling will take place in the area in the foreseeable future, by either India or China, they said.
The disengagement, the sources added, involved a “platoon-plus strength” (a platoon roughly comprises 25 soldiers) on both sides.
“The disengagement process was initiated last year too. However, China did not complete the entire process and kept a platoon-plus strength of soldiers, which they have now withdrawn after the fresh agreement at corps commander level,” a source said.
‘On equal footing’
Sources said the disengagement was the outcome of a “step-by-step” process, which involved a lot of “patience and perseverance”.
One source added that “being on an equal footing helps”, alluding to India’s refusal to back down in the face of Chinese aggression since May last year.
In its statement, the Army said “both sides agreed on disengagement in the area of Gogra”, adding that it was an outcome of the corps commander meeting.
“The troops in this area have been in a face-off situation since May last year,” the Army said.
This agreement ensures that the LAC in this area will be strictly observed and respected by both sides, and that there is no unilateral change in status quo, it added.
“With this, one more sensitive area of face-off has been resolved. Both sides have expressed commitment to take the talks forward and resolve the remaining issues along the LAC in the western sector,” the statement said.
The Indian Army, it added, along with the ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police), is totally committed to ensure the sovereignty of the nation and maintain peace and tranquillity along the LAC in the western sector.
Next focus point
India and China had been locked in a stand-off at the LAC since April-May last year — a stand-off that also resulted in a clash at Galwan Valley that killed 20 Indian soldiers. Efforts have been underway at multiple levels since last year to resolve the tensions.
While Gogra disengagement has been finalised now, disengagement has also been completed at two other points of friction, Pangong Tso and Galwan Valley, since last year.
The corps commander talks held last month were the shortest-ever, but were described as successful, and forward movement was expected.
Sources said the next focus of India-China talks will be the Hot Springs area, which is Patrolling Point 17A.
The Hot Springs area, they added, is also doable and there is “not much difference” in the opinions put forward by both sides.
The remaining friction points — like Depsang Plains and Demchok — will take time.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)