China’s defence ministry on Wednesday said that the frontline troops of both China and India at the south and north banks of the Pangong Lake in eastern Ladakh started “synchronised and organised” disengagement from today (Wednesday).
Although there was no official comment by either the Indian defence ministry or the Indian Army, people familiar with the development said both sides are in the process of pulling back their armoured units like tanks and armoured personnel carriers.
According to sources, specific steps like the withdrawal of armoured elements from the friction points were discussed threadbare at the ninth round of high-level military talks on January 24 that lasted for around 16 hours.
Meanwhile, the office of Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted that he will make a statement in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday on the situation in eastern Ladakh.
People familiar with the situation in eastern Ladakh said both sides are in the process of pulling back their armoured units in line with steps agreed upon for overall disengagement in the last round of military talks.
“The Chinese and Indian frontline troops at the southern and northern bank of the Pangong Tso Lake start synchronised and organised disengagement from February 10,” spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of National Defence Senior Colonel Wu Qian said in a brief statement in Beijing.
“This move is in accordance with the consensus reached by both sides at the 9th round of China-India Corps Commander Level Meeting,” it said.
Separately, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said the frontline troops of the Chinese and Indian militaries began to conduct simultaneous and planned disengagement in the Pangong Lake area on Wednesday as per consensus reached at a meeting of the foreign ministers of the two countries in Moscow in September and the ninth round of Corps commander-level talks.
“We hope the Indian side will work with China to meet each other halfway, strictly implement the consensus reached between the two sides and ensure the smooth implementation of the disengagement process,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in a statement.
“This move is in accordance with the consensus reached by both sides at the 9th round of China-India Corps Commander Level Meeting,” the official added.
Both sides rushed a large number of battle tanks, armoured vehicles and heavy equipment to the treacherous and high-altitude areas of the region after tension escalated following a deadly clash in the Galwan Valley in June last year.
Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the fierce hand-to-hand combat on June 15 in Galwan Valley, an incident that marked the most serious military conflicts between the two sides in decades.
At their ninth round of military talks, the Indian and Chinese armies agreed to push for an “early disengagement” of troops and resolved to continue “effective efforts” to stabilise and control the situation in eastern Ladakh.
“The two sides agreed to continue their effective efforts in ensuring the restraint of the frontline troops, stabilise and control the situation along the Line of Actual Control in the Western Sector of the China-India border, and jointly maintain peace and tranquillity,” said a joint statement after the talks.