India and China are set to hold the 10th round of Corps Commander-level talks on Saturday as the disengagement process in Pangong Tso is over.
According to a Times of India report, the two armies reached an agreement on disengagement at the North and South banks of Pangong lake that mandated both sides to cease forward deployment of troops in a “phased, coordinated and verifiable” manner. The pullback comes after a nine-month-long border standoff in eastern Ladakh.
The tenth round of Corps Commander-level talks are scheduled to start at 10 am at the Moldo border point on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control, and will be the first engagement between the two sides at a senior level after conclusion of the disengagement process in Pangong lake areas, sources said.
They said pulling back of troops, weapons and other military hardware as well as dismantling of bunkers, tents and temporary structures in north and south banks of Pangong lake were completed on Thursday and both sides have carried out a verification of the same. “Both sides will also carry out a comprehensive review of the disengagement process in Pangong lake areas,” said a source.
The disengagement process began on February 10. The Indian delegation at Saturday’s talks will be led by Lt Gen PGK Menon, the Commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps while the Chinese side is expected to be headed by Maj Gen Liu Lin, the commander of the South Xinjiang military district of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). In his statement in Parliament, defence minister Rajnath Singh said that it was agreed to convene the next meeting of senior commanders of both sides within 48 hours of completion of the disengagement in the Pangong lake areas so as to resolve all other remaining issues.
On Tuesday, the Indian Army released short videos and photographs showing thinning down of troops and dismantling of bunkers, camps and other facilities by the Chinese military in the areas around the Pangong lake. The visuals also showed Chinese military using a bulldozer to flatten some structures, and vehicles with troops and equipment preparing to retreat to rear bases as part of the infantry disengagement.
The photos and videos largely depicted fast-paced disengagement process in both north and south banks of Pangong lake that included withdrawal of troops, removal of machinery and dismantling of temporary structures like bunkers, posts and tents.
India and China had last month agreed to push for an early disengagement of troops and resolved to continue “effective efforts” to stabilise and control the situation in eastern Ladakh at their ninth round of military talks on the border standoff.
“It was said that both sides agreed to follow the important consensus of the leaders of the respective country and maintain the momentum of talks,” MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said at a media briefing while referring to the joint statement issued after the ninth round of military talks.
Close to 1,00,000 Indian and Chinese troops are deployed in eastern Ladakh as both sides have been holding on to their ground and showing readiness for a long-haul, amid continuing diplomatic and military talks to find an amicable solution.
In the military talks, India has all along been demanding restoration of status quo ante in all areas of eastern Ladakh prior to April. The face-off had begun on May 5.
Following the sixth round of military talks, the two sides had announced a slew of decisions including not to send more troops to the frontline, refrain from unilaterally changing the situation on the ground and avoid taking any actions that may further complicate matters.
This round was held with a specific agenda of exploring ways to implement a five-point agreement reached between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at a meeting in Moscow on September 10 on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) conclave. The pact included measures like quick disengagement of troops, avoiding action that could escalate tensions, adherence to all agreements and protocols on border management and steps to restore peace along the LAC.