Ladakh stand-off | Indian, Chinese armies agree to disengage from friction points

Indian and Chinese armies have arrived at a “mutual consensus” to “disengage” from all friction points in eastern Ladakh, in a significant development that came in the midst of spiralling border tension following the killing of 20 Indian soldiers in a clash at Galwan Valley, military sources said Tuesday.

The decision to disengage the forces, locked in a bitter standoff for the last six weeks in eastern Ladakh, was taken at a nearly 11-hour meeting between senior Indian and Chinese commanders in Moldo on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on Monday.

The talks were held in a “cordial, positive and constructive atmosphere” and it was decided that modalities for disengagement from all areas in eastern Ladakh will be taken forward by both the sides, the sources said detailing about the outcome of the second Lt General-level meeting.

“There was a mutual consensus to disengage. Modalities for disengagement from all friction areas in eastern Ladakh were discussed and will be taken forward by both the sides,” said a source.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson in Beijing said the two sides had a “candid and in-depth exchange of views on the outstanding issues and agreed to take necessary measures to cool down the situation.”

The Indian delegation at the talks was led by 14 Corps Commander Lt Gen Harinder Singh while the Chinese was headed by the Commander of the Tibet Military District Maj Gen Liu Lin.

The first round of the Lt Gen talks was held on June 6 during which both sides finalised an agreement to disengage gradually from all standoff points beginning with Galwan Valley.

However, the situation along the border deteriorated following the Galwan Valley clashes on June 15 as the two sides significantly bolstered their deployment in most areas along the 3,500-km de-facto border after the incident.

On Sunday, the government gave the armed forces “full freedom” to give a “befitting” response to any Chinese misadventure along the LAC.

The Army has already sent thousands of additional troops to forward locations along the border in the last one week. The IAF has also moved a sizable number of its frontline Sukhoi 30 MKI, Jaguar, Mirage 2000 aircraft and Apache attack helicopters to several key air bases including Leh and Srinagar following the clashes.

In the Lt Gen talks, the Indian delegation strongly raised the “premeditated” assault by Chinese troops on Indian soldiers in Galwan Valley. The Indian side also suggested bringing down the number of troops by both sides in their rear bases along the LAC, people familiar with the issue said.

It is learnt the Chinese military asked for the meeting on Monday as well as the first on June 6.

The sources said the ground commanders will hold a series of meetings in the next couple of weeks to finalise the detailed framework of disengagement.

After the Galwan Valley clash, the two sides held at least three-rounds of Major-General-level talks to explore ways to bring down tension.

The situation in eastern Ladakh deteriorated after around 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers were engaged in a violent face-off on May 5 and 6. The incident in Pangong Tso was followed by a similar incident in north Sikkim on May 9. Prior to the clashes, both sides had been asserting that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, it was necessary to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas.