Revetments and equipment (top) and revetments and storage before the disengagement
China has dismantled dozens of structures and moved vehicles to empty entire camps along a disputed Himalayan border where Indian and Chinese troops have been locked in a face-off since last summer, satellite images released on Wednesday show.
The nuclear-armed neighbours last week announced a plan to pull back troops, tanks and other equipment from the banks of Pangong Tso, a glacial lake in the Ladakh region, that became a flashpoint in the prolonged border dispute.
Revetments and equipment (top) and revetments and storage areas removed along an area known as Finger 6 at Pangong Tso, in satellite images provided by Maxar dated January 30 and February 16.
Satellite imagery supplied by Maxar Technologies showing some areas on the northern bank of Pangong Tso from Tuesday reveal that several Chinese military camps, which could be seen there in late January, have been removed.
“Similar action is happening from our side also,” said an Indian official, who requested anonymity, in New Delhi.
Revetments, equipment, revetments and storage areas removed along Finger 6 at Pangong Tso, in satellite images provided by Maxar dated February 16
Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told parliament both sides had agreed to pull back troops around Pangong Tso in “a phased, coordinated and verified manner”, after which military commanders would discuss ending the stand-off in other parts of the Ladakh frontier.
Tensions began rising along the high-altitude border in April when India accused Chinese troops of intruding into its side of the Line of Actual Control, the de facto border. China denied the allegation, saying it was operating in its own area.
But the confrontation escalated in June when 20 Indian soldiers and an undisclosed number of Chinese troops were killed during hand-to-hand clashes in Ladakh’s Galwan region – the first such casualties along the 3,500 km (2,200 mile) border in decades.
Despite several subsequent rounds of diplomatic and military talks, India and China had been unable to settle on an agreement until this month, making the ongoing first phase of the withdrawal critical.
“What is happening now is that wherever troops, especially north and south of Pangong Tso, were in eyeball-to-eyeball contact, they have taken a step back to reduce tensions and pave way for further de-escalation,” the Indian official said.
Videos and images released by the Indian Army earlier this week also showed Chinese troops dismantling bunkers and tents, and then tanks, soldiers and vehicles moving out as part of the disengagement process.