NEW DELHI: Chinese troops will move back from the Finger area and dismantle military infrastructure it created along the Pangong Tso banks as part of the disengagement plan reached nine months after the border crisis broke out, defence minister Rajnath Singh has informed the parliament.
In a detailed statement on the disengagement plan, the minister said that the status quo as of March last year will be restored at the Finger area which had emerged as a major friction point and patrolling by both sides will be suspended till further notice.
“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. A similar action would be taken in the South Bank area by both sides,” the minister informed parliament.
This is a major breakthrough after months of conflict that also led to a deadly clash at Galwan. At one point the Finger area seemed an impossible task to resolve after the Chinese side created major infrastructure along the bank to house thousands of troops, artillery and heavy machine guns. The Chinese withdrawal to Finger 8 has been the original Indian demand that has now been met.
“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 area will be removed and the landforms will be restored,” the minister said.
Importantly, the agreement has a safeguard against further flaring up of tensions in the area by suspending military activities. “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,” the minister said.
Singh said that during the talks, the Indian side has not conceded anything at all and the focus now will be to resolve other outstanding issues at friction points along the LAC. These would include the Gogra, Galwan and Depsang deployments of the PLA, all of which came up after May last year.
“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.
The minster added that implementation of the agreement has started yesterday in the North and South Bank of the Pangong Lake and the status quo shall be restored. The next step will be a meeting of senior commanders within 48 hours after the complete disengagement in the Pangong Lake area to resolve other remaining issues.