India, China reach disengagement pact in Pangong lake areas: Rajnath
New Delhi: India and China have reached an agreement on disengagement in the North and South banks of Pangong lake in eastern Ladakh that mandates both sides to ‘cease’ forward deployment of troops in a ‘phased, coordinated and verifiable’ manner, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced in Parliament on Thursday, in a breakthrough after a nine-month border standoff.
Sharing details of the pact to defuse the tense military face-off in eastern Ladakh that severely strained ties between the two Asian giants, Rajnath also assured the Rajya Sabha that India has not conceded anything in the sustained talks with China and it will not allow even an inch of its territory to be taken away by anyone.
A video shared by the Indian Army showed the pulling back of three tanks of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and one by the Indian side from south of Pangong Tso besides brief shots of a meeting between troops of the two sides.
Official sources said withdrawal of tanks and other armoured elements from certain friction points is nearing completion while pulling back of troops from the North bank areas is being undertaken.
Making a statement in the Rajya Sabha a day after China announced the disengagement process, Rajnath said China will pull back its troops to east of Finger 8 areas in the northern bank of Pangong lake while the Indian personnel will be based at their permanent base at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3 in the region. Similar action will take place at the southern bank of the lake as well, he said.
In an identical statement later in the Lok Sabha, he said the disengagement process was ‘going on well’, and that the implementation of the pact will ‘substantially restore’ the situation to the one which existed prior to the standoff that erupted on May 5 last.
The Defence Minister said both sides have agreed to remove structures that had been built since April last in the North and South bank areas, and put in place a temporary moratorium on military activities, including patrolling the traditional areas. He said the two sides have agreed they should achieve complete disengagement at the ‘earliest’ and abide fully by the bilateral agreements and protocols.
Sources in the defence and security establishment said the disengagement from the eyeball-to-eyeball situation is the first step towards overall de-escalation and it may take several weeks to complete the entire process at all the friction points.
The Defence Minister said the implementation of the pact started on Wednesday and it was agreed to convene the next meeting of senior commanders of both sides within 48 hours of completion of the disengagement in the Pangong lake area so as to resolve all other remaining issues.
‘I am happy to inform the House today that as a result of our well thought out approach and sustained talks with the Chinese side, we have now been able to reach an agreement on disengagement in the North and South bank of the Pangong lake,’ he said.
The border standoff between the Indian and Chinese militaries erupted on May 5 following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas and both sides gradually enhanced their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry even as the two sides continued military and diplomatic talks.