India, China dial down rhetoric on border de-escalation talks2 min read . Updated: 17 Jul 2020, 08:16 AM IST
- Both sides committed towards complete disengagement, but pullback of troops may take time, says India
- Disengagement process is intricate, needs constant verification, says the Indian Army
NEW DELHI : China and India seem to have dialled down on rhetoric and attempted to reduce public expectations of their efforts to stabilize ties as the two sides prepared for protracted talks on de-escalation and disengagement of troops along the common border in Ladakh.
Beijing did not comment on the talks between senior military commanders of the two sides, held on Tuesday, apart from brief remarks from the Chinese foreign ministry on Wednesday that the talks had made progress.
In New Delhi, the Indian Army issued its first statement on Thursday saying India and China “remain committed to the objective of complete disengagement", but cautioned that the “process is intricate and requires constant verification", which was indicative of tough negotiations, and that the steps involved in the pulling back of troops would take time.
The army said the two commanders met at Chushul on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on Tuesday for almost 15-hours and had reviewed the first phase of disengagement at three points along the Ladakh border, which took place last week.
“They (India and China) are taking it (disengagement and de-escalation) forward through regular meetings at diplomatic and military levels," it said.
Ties between the two countries had plummeted after the spike in tensions in early May following a clash between Indian and Chinese troops at the Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh and in Naku La in Sikkim. China subsequently amassed a large number of troops along the LAC border with India, with tanks, artillery and air support. India quickly matched these moves through its own mobilization of troops. Chinese troops had ingressed into Indian territory at Pangong Tso, as well as at patrolling points (PP) 14, 15 and 17-A. At these points, the two sides have implemented a pull back and created a buffer zone of 3-4 kilometres to ensure that their respective troops to do not engage with each other.
However, at Pangong Tso, there has been limited progress in achieving a withdrawal. Chinese troops, who had intruded up to a point known as Finger 4, have now moved back to Finger 5, said a person familiar with the matter. India has been insisting on a complete withdrawal of Chinese troops to positions where they were in April before the outbreak of tensions, a position known as Finger 8 that is India’s perception of where the LAC is. “Fingers" are mountain folds that are jutting into the Pangong Tso lake.
At all diplomatic and military level meetings between India and China, “the two sides have agreed on complete disengagement of the troops along the LAC and de-escalation from India-China border areas for full restoration of peace in the border areas as per bilateral agreements", Indian foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said on Thursday.
Srivastava said the process of disengagement was “complex", and the process underway at PP 14, 15 and 17-A “is aimed at addressing face-off situations and close-up deployments of troops along the LAC". “Both sides have agreed at specific points to redeploy towards their regular posts on their respective sides of the LAC. These are mutually agreed reciprocal actions to be taken by both sides," Srivastava said in a reference to buffer zones. Some news reports had expressed concern that the buffer zones meant Indian troops stepping back further into Indian territory and the Chinese troops withdrawing two kilometers still meant that they were inside India.