Indian and Chinese soldiers began to withdraw from the Gogra-Hot Springs area in Ladakh in the western Himalayas last Thursday, a little more than two years after a violent clash on a nearby ridge led to the first loss of lives along the disputed frontier in decades. Forward deployments will cease and temporary structures that were erected to establish ownership will be dismantled. The agreement to pull out troops comes ahead of a likely meeting in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, between the leaders of China, India and Russia, who are gathering under the aegis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which includes Pakistan and the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
While the world's attention is focused on the coming face-to-face meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, of equal importance is Mr Xi's encounter with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mr Xi and Mr Modi have not held bilateral talks since 2019, with regular summit-level contact interrupted by the July 2020 Himalayan clash that left 20 Indian soldiers and four Chinese soldiers dead, by official accounts. Since then, the two powerful militaries have continued a face-off along the 3,800km-long frontier, under the most hostile ground conditions. In many areas, their troops will continue to do so, but the withdrawal is a welcome initial step, nevertheless.