As China and India continue with their disengagement process at the border in eastern Ladakh, all eyes are now on the contentious region of Pangong Tso.
The Indian Express reported that the disengagement between both sides has been completed at three points, namely Point 17A at the Gogra post, PP 14 in Galwan Valley and PP 15 in Hot Springs sector. NDTV said that both sides have also completed creation of a buffer zone of three kilometres at these three points as part of a temporary measure aimed at reducing the possibility of any confrontation.
With this the first phase of disengagement has been implemented by both countries, sources told NDTV. It will be followed by a verification by both armies to ensure that the disengagement has been fully implemented.
This clears the deck for another round of talks, especially on Pangong Tso.
While China has reduced its troops in the areas, they are still present in large numbers at Finger 4 of the northern bank of the lake. The Indian Express reported that the Chinese have come in eight kilometres west of Finger 8, which India marks as the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
A senior officer of the security establishment told The Indian Express, “At Pangong Tso, the strength of the PLA is equal to the combined strength of the troops it withdrew from PP 14, PP 15 and PP 17A. In the first couple of meetings, they were even reluctant to talk about Pangong Tso. It was only when India said we will not talk about other areas if Pangong Tso is not included that they agreed. Our primary objective at the moment is that China must vacate Finger 4 first. It is ours.”
China’s Spokesperson Says, ‘Hope India Will Work With China’
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, “Following the consensus reached at the commander-level talks, the Chinese and India border troops have been taking effective measures to disengage at Galwan Valley and other areas in the western sector. The overall situation at the China-India boundary is stable and ameliorating.”
“The two sides will continue to maintain dialogue and communication through military and diplomatic channels, including holding a new round of commander-level talks and the meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs. We hope India will work with China towards the same goal to implement consensus reached between the two sides with concrete actions and jointly de-escalate tensions in the border region,” he said, reported The Indian Express.
‘Recent Chinese Claims to Galwan Valley are Untenable’: India Spokesperson
Back in India, Anurag Srivastava, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, said that the Indian troops had always taken a very responsible approach towards border management and were deeply committed to ensuring India’s sovereignty and security at the same time.
“In the last few weeks, we have made several statements spelling out categorically the position of the government on different aspects of the current situation in the western sector of India-China border areas. They include our position that recent Chinese claims to the Galwan Valley area are exaggerated and untenable; that the LAC must be strictly respected and observed as this is the basis for peace and tranquility in the border areas; and that neither side should take any unilateral action to alter it,” Srivastava added.