The Chinese and Indian armies have reportedly completed the agreed withdrawal of troops from parts of the contested area along the disputed Line of Actual Control (LoAC) in the Himalayas mountain where the two countries had been locked in a standoff since May 2020.
China and India have been locked in this border dispute for decades and went to war in 1962. The border is 3,440km (2,100 miles) long and ill-defined.
“The smooth disengagement of frontline troops in the Pangong Lake area was a significant step forward that provided a good basis for the resolution of other remaining issues along the LoAC,” said the Indian government’s Press Information Bureau (PIB) in a statement.
The announcement arrived a day after that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Indian Army (IA) commanders held the 10th round of negotiation talks over the outstanding border dispute.
In this context the Indian government’s PIB said that both sides had a “candid and in-depth exchange of views” and agreed to “push for a mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues in a steady and orderly manner in order to jointly maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas”.
During the talks the parties also reportedly reviewed the phased pullback of equipment, which includes tanks, infantry combat vehicles, and howitzers as well as troops from the north and south banks of the Pangong Lake. Two thirds of the 135 km long lake is under Chinese control.
The standoff high in the Karakoram mountains began in early May, when Chinese and Indian soldiers reportedly ignored each other’s repeated verbal warnings, triggering a yelling match, stone-throwing and fistfights at the northern bank of Pangong Lake, where contested ridges push into the glacial lake from eight directions and are referred to as “fingers.” Beijing and New Delhi have made counter claims over whose forces were responsible for sparking the clash.
India claims the Chinese-controlled Aksai Chin plateau as part of the Ladakh region. According to India, the control line is 3,488 kilometres (2,167 miles) long, while China says it is considerably shorter.
The standoff is over disputed portions of a pristine mountainous landscape that boasts a glacier that feeds one of the largest irrigation systems in the world and is a critical link in China’s key “Belt and Road” infrastructure project.
In previous rounds of talks, China had asked India to stop all construction work in what it says is Chinese territory. For its part, India has been pushing China to withdraw its troops back to where they were in April.
Experts fears that the continued deployment of thousands of troops in the Ladakh region and the Chinese-administered Aksai Chin could lead to an escalating conflict.