In a major development in the 10-month long military standoff on the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh, India and China have reached an agreement to disengage their troops from the northern and southern banks of the contentious Pangong lake where the Chinese troops would move back to east of the Finger 8 while the Indian side would go to its Dhan Singh Thapa post near Finger 3, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced on Thursday in Rajya Sabha while asserting that the country has not "conceded" anything in the process.
In a statement in Rajya Sabha, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced that as per the agreement reached between the two sides, both countries will cease their forward deployments on the Pangong Lake in a "coordinated, phased and verified" manner where they would restore the situation to the April 2020 status.
"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. It has also been agreed to convene the next meeting of the Senior Commanders within 48 hours after the complete disengagement in the Pangong Lake area so as to address and resolve all other remaining issues," the Minister announced.
The Finger area on the Northern bank of the Pangong lake and the Southern bank including Rezang La and Richen la areas have been most contentious between the two sides in the entire conflict along with other friction areas in the vicinity including the Patrolling Points 17, 17 A, Depsang Plains and other areas there.
"The agreement that we have been able to reach with the Chinese side for disengagement in the Pangong lake area envisages that both sides will cease their forward deployments in a phased, coordinated and verified manner. The Chinese side will keep its troop presence in the North Bank area to east of Finger 8. Reciprocally, the Indian troops will be based at their permanent base at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3," the Defence Minister announced.
Singh said a "similar action" would be taken in the South Bank area by both sides.
"These are mutual and reciprocal steps and any structures that had been built by both sides since April 2020 in both North and South Bank areas will be removed and the landforms will be restored. It has also been agreed to have a temporary moratorium on military activities by both sides in the North Bank, including patrolling to the traditional areas. Patrolling will be resumed only when both sides reach an agreement in diplomatic and military talks that would be held subsequently," he said.
The Defence Minister said the implementation of this agreement has started yesterday in the North and South Bank of the Pangong Lake and "It will substantially restore the situation to that existing prior to commencement of the standoff last year."
The Minister clarified that "in these talks, we have not conceded anything" while making it clear that there are still some outstanding issues with regard to deployment and patrolling at some other points along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh.
"These will be the focus of further discussions with the Chinese side. We have agreed that both sides should achieve complete disengagement at the earliest and abide fully by the bilateral agreements and protocols. By now, the Chinese side is also fully aware of our resolve. It is, therefore, our expectation that the Chinese side will work with us in full sincerity to resolve these remaining issues," he said.
Singh said that last year that there were several friction areas in Eastern Ladakh along the LAC. In addition, the Chinese side had mobilized a large number of troops and armaments along the LAC as well as in the depth areas and "Our armed forces too had made adequate and effective counter deployments in these areas to ensure that India's security interests were fully protected".
"I am proud to say that our Armed Forces have responded to the challenges posed by the unilateral Chinese action and have shown valour and courage on both South and North bank of Pangong Tso. Many strategically important points were identified and our troops positioned themselves at those Hill Tops and at locations which were very important from our point of view. It is because of this great bravery of our Armed Forces in the face of harsh adverse climatic conditions that we maintained the edge..." the Minister added.