After Indian defence officials said Chinese troops were observed to have “thinned” out in at least four stand-off points, China on Wednesday said that “actions” were being taken by both sides in line with an “agreement” reached with India to “ameliorate the border situation”. This comes a few days after reports about “disengagement” and “thinning out” of Chinese troops at certain points. However, the Chinese side did not provide any detail on the “actions” it said the “two sides” had taken at the border.
Military sources had earlier stated that the density of Chinese troops at Galwan and Hot Springs had come down from Monday, which was reciprocated by India but that there had been no change in status at Pangong Tso, where Chinese troops are on India’s side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). There had, however, been no official statement from India on these developments. “Through diplomatic and military channels, China and India have recently had effective communication and reached agreement on properly handling the situation in the west section of the China-India boundary. At present, the two sides are taking actions in line with the agreement to ameliorate the border situation,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying in Beijing at the regular media briefing in response to a question from AFP.
This is expected to be reciprocated by Indian forces also be pulling back at the disputed points, though India has always maintained that its troops have never crossed the Indian side of the LAC. In the military and diplomatic talks underway, India has demanded restoration of the status quo as before May 5. The military talks are being held between 14 Corps Commander Lt Gen Harinder Singh and Maj Gen Liu Lin, the commander of the Southern Xinjiang Military District.
The standoff in the Galwan valley was at three points, marked as the Indian Army’s patrolling points 14, 15 and 17. These locations are about 6 km east to the confluence of the Galwan rivulet and Shyok river. At patrolling point 14, Chinese soldiers had come to their claim of the Line of Actual Line and objected to India building a 60-metre-long strategic bridge being built to give troops easy access to Daulat Beg Oldie, a high altitude Advanced Landing Ground, which is considered the gateway Aksai Chin. “They have gone back from patrolling point 14,” a government official said.
At patrolling point 15, Chinese soldiers had put up a large number of tents and had been camping there for the last one month. India had also “mirrored” their presence and had been camping at the same place. “Both sides have started reducing their tents now,” the official explained. At the third standoff point, marked on a map as Galwan sector’s patrolling point 17, both sides had mobilised a large number of troops and armoured carriers, the latter of which have been moved back, followed by the soldiers.
“The de-escalation exercise has started near the Pangong lake standoff point as well, and will take a few more rounds of diplomatic and military talks. The military talks will need more meetings between Major General, Brigadier and Colonel-level officers,” the officer added. Army sources had previously said they were prepared for a “long and permanent” deployment with heavy battle equipment at their rear in the event the Chinese side does not withdraw and removes fighter-bombers, air defence radars, jammers and rocket forces from behind their front lines.
Chinese troops had come to Finger 4 – the name given to one of the 8 cliffs jutting out of the Sirijap range that overlooks the lake – and brought along 124 vehicles and 14 boats. The boats have been moved back and the thinning out process has begun in this sector, a top government official said.