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Chinese, Indian troops start disengagement in eastern Ladakh

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The Chinese and Indian armies started to disengage simultaneously on Wednesday after a months-long border standoff.

"The Chinese and Indian frontline troops at the southern and northern bank of the Pangong Tso Lake start synchronized and organized disengagement from February 10," spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of National Defense Senior Colonel Wu Qian said in a brief statement in Beijing. The statement did not provide details.

"This move is in accordance with the consensus reached by both sides at the 9th round of China-India Corps Commander Level Meeting," Wu Qian said.

Meanwhile Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the frontline troops of the Chinese and Indian militaries began to conduct simultaneous and planned disengagement in the Pangong Lake area on Wednesday as per consensus reached at a meeting of the foreign ministers of the two countries in Moscow in September and the ninth round of Corps commander-level talks.

"We hope the Indian side will work with China to meet each other halfway, strictly implement the consensus reached between the two sides and ensure the smooth implementation of the disengagement process," Wang Wenbin said.

"This move is in accordance with the consensus reached by both sides at the 9th round of China-India Corps Commander Level Meeting," the official added.

There was no official comment by either the Indian defense ministry or the Indian Army on the Chinese statement but Tribune India quoted people familiar with the development as saying that both sides are in the process of pulling back their armored units like tanks and armored personnel carriers.

The people mentioned above said specific steps like the withdrawal of armored elements from the friction points were discussed threadbare at the ninth round of high-level military talks on January 24 that lasted for around 16 hours.

The office of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, meanwhile, tweeted that he will make a statement in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament) on Thursday on the situation in eastern Ladakh.

China and India rushed a large number of battle tanks, armored vehicles and heavy equipment to the treacherous and high-altitude areas of the region after tension escalated following a deadly clash in the Galwan Valley in June last.

Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the fierce hand-to-hand combat on June 15 in Galwan Valley, an incident that marked the most serious military conflicts between the two sides in decades.

Indian Officials

Indian government officials were quoted by The Hindu as saying that verification after each step would be the key for the process to go forward. While aerial monitoring, using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), would be done, on the ground, verification at each step would also be done to ensure that the Chinese fully honor the understanding.

On the south bank, both sides had deployed tanks and armored vehicles in close proximity, within few hundred meters, after tensions went up end of August.

Since the stand-off began in early May, China has moved a large number of troops and equipment close to the Line of Actual Control in addition to the ingress by its troops inside Indian territory at various places in eastern Ladakh, The Hindu said adding: On the north bank, Chinese troops made ingress from Finger 8 up to Finger 4, blocking Indian patrols. India holds till Finger 4 but claims till Finger 8 as per alignment of the LAC.

Apart from Pongong lake, another major area of concern for India is the strategic Depsang Plains, where Chinese troops have been blocking Indian Army patrols from going up to the Patrolling Points (PP) 10 to 13 beyond the Y-junction.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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