Tribune News Service
New Delhi, February 10
More than nine months into the military standoff, India and China on Wednesday kick-started the process to disengage troops from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh.
The process has been initiated on the north and south banks of the Pangong Tso, 135-km glacial lake. Some 50,000 troops on either side have been facing each other along the 823-km-long LAC.
While India is yet to make an official statement on the matter, Chinese defence ministry website ran a statement by its spokesperson Colonel Wu Qian today. “Chinese and Indian frontline troops at the southern and northern bank of the Pangong Tso lake start synchronised and organised disengagement from February 10,” he stated.
Top sources in the Indian security establishment have said that “this will be part of a gradual step-wise disengagement process”.
Tanks and mechanised equipment of both sides have been pulled back from locations south of the Pangong Tso, the sources said. Since August-end, troops of both sides have been within rifle-shot range of each other in the Rinchen La and Rezang La areas on the south bank of the Pangong Tso following a clash.
On the north bank of the lake – which has a more rugged terrain – both sides have begun the process of thinning out troops.
The pullback shall be physically verified before the next disengagement step is undertaken, said the sources, as they recalled the Galwan clash on June 15 which occurred after the first phase of pullback had been initiated. So far, only tanks and mechanised equipment have been withdrawn from the south bank of the lake. On the north bank, the number of infantry troops is being reduced.
A decision on the disengagement had been announced on January 25 in a joint statement following the 9th round of India-China corps commander-level meeting conducted on January 24. “The two sides had a candid and in-depth exchange of views on disengagement along the LAC… (and) agreed to push for an early disengagement of the frontline troops,” the joint statement read.
Epicentre of tensions between two sides
50,000 troops on either side have been facing each other along the 823-km-long LAC. Since August-end, both armies have been within rifle-shot range of each other in the south bank of Pangong Tso following a clash.
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