Pangong Tso in focus as troops disengage at 3 friction points
| Friday | 10th July, 2020
Chinese and Indian forces Thursday stepped back 2 km from Patrolling Point 17A at the Gogra post, the third friction point — PP 14 in Galwan Valley and PP 15 in Hot Springs sector being the other two — as part of the first round of disengagement on the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh. This clears the decks for another round of talks, especially on Pangong Tso where even after some thinning out, Chinese troops are still present in large numbers at Finger 4 on the northern banks of the lake — they have come in 8 km, west of Finger 8 which India says marks the LAC.
New Delhi: Chinese and Indian forces Thursday stepped back 2 km from Patrolling Point 17A at the Gogra post, the third friction point — PP 14 in Galwan Valley and PP 15 in Hot Springs sector being the other two — as part of the first round of disengagement on the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh. This clears the decks for another round of talks, especially on Pangong Tso where even after some thinning out, Chinese troops are still present in large numbers at Finger 4 on the northern banks of the lake — they have come in 8 km, west of Finger 8 which India says marks the LAC.
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.
In New Delhi, sources said the WMCC is likely to meet Friday and the Corps Commanders next week. On the disengagement at PP 17, sources said: “It has been completely vacated now under the same formula as PP 14 and PP 15. The withdrawal was completed post noon and verification was done at 2.30 pm. Both forces have moved about 2 km behind PP 17A… as agreed, there will be no patrolling until further orders,” a senior officer of the security establishment said.
According to the official, the situation in Pangong Tso is very different. “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,” the official said. “Another Corps Commander meeting may perhaps draw up a robust plan even as diplomatic engagements are on at the highest level,” an official of the Union Home Ministry said.
A senior Army officer said while there has been a further reduction of troops from the Finger 4 base area, “there is no change on the ridgeline of Finger 4” where Chinese troops continue to hold positions, looking down at Indian positions to the west. Meanwhile, New Delhi, responding to reports that it did not mention Galwan Valley in its official statement while Beijing did after the Special Representative-level talks on July 5, said National Security Advisor Ajit Doval “conveyed categorically India’s position on the recent developments along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) including in the Galwan Valley area” to Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Anurag Srivastava, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, said “NSA emphasised in this context that the Indian troops had always taken a very responsible approach towards border management and at the same time, our forces were deeply committed to ensuring India’s sovereignty and security.”
The spokesperson said “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”. “We remain convinced of the need for maintenance of peace and tranquility in the border areas and the resolution of differences through dialogue, at the same time, we are also strongly committed to ensuring India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.
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