Disengagement between India and China is underway at the Pangong Lake in eastern Ladakh. While the distance between troops from both sides is 4-5 km along the banks of the river, that same distance is just a little over 1 km on the mountain ridges surrounding the lake.
This indicates that disengagement between the two armies is still not complete at Pangong lake where the Chinese had camped at Finger 4 that had traditionally been under Indian control. The Chinese had come in 8km, all the way till Finger 4 from Finger 8. India maintains that the Line of Actual Control (LAC) runs through Finger 8.
Mountain spurs jutting into the lake are referred to as fingers in military parlance.
Details accessed by India Today reveal that apart from Pangong lake, the situation remains tense in the Hot Springs area also referred to as Patrol Point (PP17A). Thinning of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops was reported from the area but 40-50 Chinese soldiers are still in close proximity, separated only by a distance of 600-800 metres.
Sources said the Chinese have moved back 1.5 km from their earlier position in Galwan Valley (PP14) where a violent clash resulted in casualties on both sides on June 15. Distance between Indian and Chinese troops in Galwan is now 3 km on each side.
At PP15, disengagement seems to be complete with Indian and Chinese troops separated by a distance of 8-10 km.
The current disengagement is focused on friction areas and an in-depth de-escalation in eastern Ladakh will be worked out once this initial phase is complete, sources told India Today.
Process of de-escalation along LAC is “intricate” and requires “constant verification”, the Indian Army said in a statement on Thursday. This statement was issued in the wake of internal deliberations during the Corps Commander level meeting that took place between Indian and China in Chushul on July 14 to review this initial phase of disengagement.
The Indian Army said, “The two sides remain committed to the objective of complete disengagement. This process is intricate and requires constant verification. They are taking it forward through regular meetings at the diplomatic and military levels.”
Sources have described the most recent Corps Commander level meeting that continued for nearly 15 hours as “positive”.
A complete disengagement at Pangong lake and Hot Springs is expected in the coming days as both sides work out modalities.
Spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Anurag Srivastava said on Thursday that India and China have been engaged in discussions through established diplomatic and military channels to address the situation along the LAC in India-China border areas.
He added that Special Representatives (SRs) of the India-China border question, NSA Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi discussed the prevailing issues on July 5, 2020. This was followed by a meeting of Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) on July 10.
“The disengagement process currently underway in the Western sector is specifically aimed at addressing face-off situations and close-up deployments of troops along the LAC. It is based on an understanding between senior military commanders. Both sides have agreed at specific points to re-deploy towards their regular posts on their respective sides of the LAC,” the MEA spokesperson said.
Anurag Srivastava also said that disengagement is an ongoing process. He added, “This mutual re-deployment should not be misrepresented. There is absolutely no change with respect to India’s position on the Line of Actual Control. We are fully committed to observing and respecting the LAC. Any unilateral attempts to change the status quo along the LAC are not acceptable.”