Confirming that disengagement has started in a phased manner in eastern Ladakh, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that India is of the view that the forward deployments of 2020 should end and both armies should return to their permanent and recognised posts.
"I am happy to inform the House that our well thought out approach and sustained talks with Chinese side have resulted in a disengagement agreement with China on the North and South Bank of Pangong Lake. The agreement that we have been able to reach with the Chinese side for disengagement in the Pangong lake area envisages that both sides will cease their forward deployments in a phased, coordinated and verified manner", Rajnath Singh said while making a statement in the upper house of the parliament on Thursday.
In a significant development, the minister announced that patrolling by both India and China will be suspended in the Finger Area of Pangong Tso (north) for a while and Indian troops will recede to Finger 3 and China will move eastward till Finger 8.
The text of my statement in Rajya Sabha today on ‘Present Situation in Eastern Ladakh’. https://t.co/ffZWwemNar— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) February 11, 2021
Pangong Tso is a lake shared between the two countries and demarcated on maps as "fingers". Indian troops have been restricted from patrolling beyond Finger 4 since April after China deployed troops there. Traditionally, India used to patrol up to Finger 8, where it claims the LAC is. However, China lays claim up to Finger 4 and dominates the area.
"China is also aware of our resolve to protect the sovereignty of the country. It is expected that China will work with us to resolve the remaining issues", the minister underlined.
The minister assured the country that India has not lost anything in the disengagement process.
"I would also like to inform the House that there are still some outstanding issues regarding deployment and patrolling on the Line of Actual Control. Our focus will be on these in further talks", Singh emphasised.
Chinese and Indian frontline troops along the southern and northern bank of Pangong Tso started synchronised and organised disengagement on 10 February, said Senior Colonel Wu Qian, spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of National Defence, in a written statement on Wednesday.
During the 9th round of China-India meetings held on 24 January, the two sides had claimed the talks were "positive, practical and constructive, which further enhanced mutual trust and understanding".
The border standoff between the two countries started in April 2020 after the two accused each other of violating border agreements. Following minor clashes, a deadly clash erupted in the Galwan Valley on 15 June 2020, resulting in at least 20 Indian soldiers being killed. After these incidents, New Delhi and Beijing increased the concentration of troops in the region to about 50,000 each.