China, India troops pull back from parts of disputed border

The Pangong Lake sits at about 14,000 feet in the Ladakh region.
The Pangong Lake sits at about 14,000 feet in the Ladakh region.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - China and India have begun pulling back their troops from Pangong Lake along their disputed Himalayan border, officials on both sides said, but other areas of conflict between the two neighbours have yet to be addressed.

India's defence minister Rajnath Singh told Parliament Thursday (Feb 11) that the pulling back of troops along the glacial lake will be followed by another round of talks between top military commanders to discuss moving back soldiers from other disputed areas around the frontier.

“Our sustained talks with China have led to agreement on disengagement on the north and south banks of the Pangong lake,”he said.

The "orderly" disengagement of soldiers from the north and south banks of the glacial lake that sits at about 14,000 feet in the Ladakh region began at the same time on Wednesday (Feb 10), China's defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian said in a statement.

Singh said the two sides had agreed to dismantle defence structures they had built on the two sides of the lake, two-thirds of which China controls.

Once the disengagement has been completed at the lake, military commanders will meet within 48 hours to discuss pull back from other areas, Singh said.

He also said the Indian government had told Beijing that peace and tranquility had been seriously disturbed by the actions of Chinese troops and bilateral ties had suffered.

“To ensure disengagement in friction points along the LAC, it was our view that troops of both sides, who are now in close proximity, should vacate the forward deployments made in 2020 and return to the permanent and accepted bases,” he said.

Still, the disengagement from the banks of Pangong lake is just the first step. Other contentious areas of dispute along the unmarked border that Chinese troops occupied - where soldiers from both sides are in rifle range of each other - still remain, the Indian officials said.

What happens in those areas will depend on the how much progress is made at the lake, they added.

India and China moved thousands of soldiers, tanks, artillery to their 3,488km border after clashes in the Galwan valley in Ladakh last June that left at least 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese troops dead.

India and China have not been able to agree on their 3,500km-long border since the war in 1962.