Tribune News Service
New Delhi, February 11
India and China have started the process of disengagement from the north and south banks of Pangong Lake and a meeting of senior commanders within 48 hours will sort out the remaining issues of discord in this sector, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced in Rajya Sabha on Thursday.
“The implementation of this agreement will substantially restore the situation to that existing prior to commencement of the standoff last year,” said Singh. The disengagement, which began on Wednesday to end 10 months of troop deployment at forbidding heights and glacial temperatures, was brought about due to the resolute courage displayed by the armed forces and a sustained dialogue at the diplomatic level with China, he said.
Under the agreement for disengagement, which will take place in a “phased, coordinated and verified” manner will mean that China will withdraw its troops to the east of Finger 8 on the north bank while Indian troops will be re-stationed at their permanent base on Finger 3.
Both sides will also remove all military structures built after April 2020 but patrolling will remain suspended for the time being. “We hope the steps will eventually lead to restoration of the status quo. I want to remind the House that we have not lost anything,” Singh declared.
Patrolling will be resumed only when both sides reach an agreement in diplomatic and military talks that would be held subsequently. “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.
However, with the backing of the Chair, Rajnath declined to field questions from members. Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu cited national security considerations to dispense with the customary practice in the Upper House to ask supplementary questions after a minister has made a statement.
Since September 2020, military and diplomatic officials of both sides have met several times to work out a mutually acceptable solution for disengagement. Till date, there have been nine rounds of meetings of the senior commanders of both sides. Diplomatic talks have continued in parallel under the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs.
The Defence Minister also paid fulsome tributes to the armed forces for their grit and resolve under extremely harsh climatic conditions of Ladakh which resulted in the present agreement. “Our nation will always remember the sacrifices made by our brave soldiers which have been the foundation of this disengagement at Pangong Tso Lake,” he said.
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