Standoff ends as China pulls out troops from Ladakh
New Delhi, May 5
Intensive diplomatic efforts led by Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai in coordination with military authorities and Indian Ambassador to China S Jaishankar in Beijing led to flag meetings in which the face-to-face situation was resolved, official sources said tonight.
Troops on either side have been asked to withdraw simultaneously to their respective pre-April 15 positions. A strict time line has been given to withdraw totally from the standoff location which is at an altitude of 16, 300 feet.
The breakthrough came during the fourth and fifth flag meetings between local commanders over the weekend. The working mechanism on border management between the two sides was also in operation during that period.
The agreement between the two sides paves the way for External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid’s visit to Beijing on May 9 to do groundwork for Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s trip to India on May 20.
The first three flag meetings on April 18, 23 and 30 had failed, leading to speculation that Khurshid might cancel his visit to Beijing to convey strong sentiment in India against the Chinese incursion.
National Security Adviser Shivshanker Menon is learnt to have briefed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the agreement reached between the two sides. There was no immediate word on the conditions decided for the mutual withdrawal of troops.
A small contingent of Chinese People’s Liberation Army pitched tents in a disputed section along the LAC on April 15. India responded with pitching its own tents and deploying UAVs for surveillance.
This led to a face-off. Armed troops faced each other from a distance of 80 m across the Raki nullah-around 30 km south-east of the Indian Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) at Daulat Beg Oldie.
The LAC is not demarcated on the ground while perceived LAC alignments of New Delhi and Beijing do not match.
Three Brigadier-level flag meetings had failed to break the logjam. China had refused to budge and India maintained that troops of either side had to withdraw to the pre-April 15 position. The fourth flag meeting was held at Spanngur Gap in eastern Ladakh last evening. Though it could not end the deadlock, it opened the door for negotiations.
Revealing how the negotiations ended the standoff, sources said New Delhi had agreed to stop building bunkers in the disputed sections along the LAC and Beijing agreed that its troops would also not hold on to ground in that area. The two sides also agreed to adhere to the April 2005 protocol that laid down ground rules for troops on either side when patrolling in disputed sections of the LAC.
* An agreement was reached on Sunday for both sides to pull back their troops simultaneously from the face off point, which was completed at 7.30 pm.
* Indian and Chinese commanders at the local level shook hands before withdrawing.
* Under the agreement, the Indian troops decided to move back to Burste, the point they were stationed at prior to April 15.