Withdrawal of Chinese troops continues

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NEW DELHI, July 8 (PTI): The Chinese military removed all temporary structures and almost completed withdrawing its troops from the face-off site in Hot Springs in eastern Ladakh on Wednesday in sync with a decision by the two countries to ensure expeditious disengagement of forces from the friction points, people familiar with the development said.

The disengagement process began on Monday morning after a nearly two-hour telephonic conversation between National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Sunday.

In the talks, the two sides agreed on an expeditious withdrawal of troops from all the standoff points to bring back peace and tranquillity in the region. Doval and Wang are special representatives for the boundary talks.

Following the talks, a mutual disengagement process was kicked off in Galwan Valley, Hot Springs, Gogra and in Finger areas in Pangong Tso.

“The withdrawal of troops by China is complete in patrolling point 15 in Hot Springs,” said one of the persons cited above.

In the next few days, Indian Army will carry out a detailed verification to check actual implementation of the disengagement process, he said.

It is learnt that the mutual disengagement in Gogra (patrolling point 17A) is expected to be completed by tomorrow.

Gogra and Hot Springs are among the key friction points where the two armies were on an eyeball-to-eyeball engagement for last eight weeks.

The sources said the two two Armies are expected to hold further talks later this week after the first phase of disengagement process is completed.

As per the decisions arrived at the corps commander-level talks on June 30, the two sides would create a minimum buffer zone of three km in most of the areas where they were locked in a standoff.

Government sources said the Chinese military has already removed tents and withdrew its personnel from patrolling point 14 in Galwan Valley, the site of a violent clash between the two armies that left 20 Indian soldiers dead.

The Chinese side also suffered casualties but it is yet to give out the details. According to an American intelligence report, the number of casualties on the Chinese side was 35.

The sources said there has been thinning out of troops from Finger areas in Pangong Tso as well.

The Indian and Chinese armies are locked in the bitter standoff in multiple locations in eastern Ladakh for the last eight weeks. The tension escalated manifold after the Galwan Valley clash.

Both sides have held several rounds of diplomatic and military talks in the last few weeks to ease tension in the region. However, there was no visible sign of any end to the standoff till Sunday evening.

Sources said the breakthrough was achieved at the Doval-Wang meeting.

On June 30, the Indian and Chinese armies held the third round of Lt General-level talks during which both sides agreed on an “expeditious, phased and step wise” de-escalation as a “priority” to end the standoff.

In the talks on June 22, the two sides arrived at a “mutual consensus” to “disengage” from all the friction points in eastern Ladakh.

The first round of the Lt General talks was held on June 6 during which both sides finalised an agreement to disengage gradually from all the standoff points beginning with Galwan Valley.

However, the situation deteriorated following the Galwan Valley clashes as the two sides significantly bolstered their deployments in most areas along the LAC.

On Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise visit to Ladakh during which he said the era of expansionism is over and that the history is proof that “expansionists” have either lost or perished, in comments which were seen as a clear message to China that India is not going to back off and would deal with the situation with a firm hand.

Tensions had escalated in eastern Ladakh around two months ago after around 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers were engaged in a violent face-off on May 5 and 6. The incident in Pangong Tso was followed by a similar incident in north Sikkim on May 9.

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