Partial pullback at Galwan, Hot Springs

Both sides move back a km from clash site | Pangong Tso still tense

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 6

Twenty days after the deadly clash between Indian and Chinese troops at the Ladakh’s Galwan valley along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), there is a minor breakthrough. Both sides have started to pull back, almost like the first baby steps, from the flash point — Patrolling Point (PP) 14 — in the Galwan valley.

This is the first stage of the proposed disengagement, which has clearly defined the phases for full restoration of “status quo ante” as in April this year. The Army, for now, is maintaining the same number of troops at the LAC, lest the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China spring a military surprise. The Indian side is stopping short of terming it a disengagement as each move can be reversed by the PLA at its will. The mistrust hasn’t gone, as on June 17 some pullback had taken place, but the PLA had soon returned to hold ground at Galwan.

A source said a pullback was initiated by both sides on Sunday night at PP-14, the spot of the clash on the night intervening June 15 and 16. Troops have moved back by a kilometre on each side. Some minor pullback is also seen at PP-15 and PP-17A, both in the Hot Springs area, where two-three tents have been removed. There has been little movement at Finger-4 in the north bank of Pangong Tso.

Maintaining a specified distance will be the first stage of the disengagement and will be validated in some two weeks if both sides keep their commitment, a source said. Creating a minimum buffer zone of 3 km between the two armies was suggested and agreed upon as the first step of the graded and gradual disengagement by both sides. These decisions were taken at a series of Lt General-level meetings on June 6, June 22 and June 30. The second stage will include pulling back the deployment of thousands of additional troops and war-like stores of either side to a pre-agreed distance from the present eyeball-to-eyeball deployment. At present, missile launchers, long-range artillery guns and tanks are stationed by both sides at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Setting a timeline for pulling these back will be decided at fresh meetings after a two-week validation period for the buffer zone.

The next step after pulling back war-like stores will be the restoration of “status quo ante”, which will come after pulling back men, equipment and heavy weapons to the levels of April 2020. This would mean allowing the Indian Army to patrol in the disputed Pangong Tso area.

Sources said the pullback at Galwan could have been necessitated due to the heavy flow of water in the narrow valley. This is the time when snow melts in the high-altitude dry plateau. With mountains being tree-less, the flow of snowmelt is unimpeded, bringing rapid current.


Step-wise Disengagement

First stage

Maintaining a specified distance (buffer zone of 3 km between two armies) will be part of the first stage. It will be validated in two weeks if both sides keep the commitment

Second stage

It will include pulling back thousands of additional troops and war-like stores to a pre-agreed distance

Third stage

Restoration of ‘status quo ante’ to the level of April 2020. It will mean allowing the Indian Army to patrol the disputed Pangong Tso area


2-3 tents removed

  • Pullback initiated on Sunday night at PP-14 in Galwan
  • Minor withdrawal also seen at Hot Springs, where 2-3 tents were removed
  • The mistrust,however, persists as on June 17 some pullback took place but PLA soon returned to hold ground at Galwan valley

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