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India cites in-principle limited Chinese withdrawal deal at Jul 31 Ladakh border talks

(TibetanReview.net, Aug03’21) – Ending the stalemate in border talks that lasted nearly six months, India and China have agreed in principle on Jul 31 to disengage at a key patrol point in eastern Ladakh even though other friction areas remain in the region, reported the Indianexpress.com Aug 3, citing government sources. However, the official Chinese media – Xinhua, CGTN and global Times – while being positive about the talks, said nothing about any agreement having been reached. May be because it was only an in-principle agreement and therefore short of a final deal.

The agreement on PP17A was reached during the 12th round of Corps Commander-level talks, said the Indianexpress.com report. The meeting, which was part of a series of measures to resolve the 15-month standoff in Ladakh, was held on the Indian side of the Chushul-Moldo border.

It cited sources as saying China had agreed to step back from PP17A, also known as the Gogra Post, but was “not inclined” to move back from PP15 or the Hot Springs area. “Modalities are being worked out. But on PP17A, there is an agreement to disengage. On PP15, China continues to insist that it is holding its own side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC),” an Indian official was quoted as saying.

Platoon-sized units have been present on the Indian side of the LAC, at PP15 and PP17A, since the Galwan clashes of June last year which left 20 Indian and at least four Chinese troops dead, but the forces are no longer said to be in an “eyeball to eyeball” confrontation.

Movement on the agreed withdrawal was said to be expected to start within the next couple of days.

Apart from PP15 and PP17A, PP14 in Galwan Valley, and Finger 4 on the north bank of Pangong Tso and Rezang La and Rechin La on the south bank, have been identified as friction points. 

The report said the issue of Chinese ingression in the Depsang Plains and Charding-Ninglung Nallah (CNN) in the Demchok area were not discussed. Nevertheless, the latest breakthrough was said to be significant, considering the stalemate since February.

In Depsang Plains, Chinese troops are blocking Indian soldiers from accessing their traditional patrolling limits — PP10, PP11, PP11A, PP12 and PP13. In Demchok, sources have said, “so-called civilians” have pitched tents on the Indian side of Charding Nallah, which marks the LAC.

A joint statement issued Aug 2 was quoted as saying the two sides had a “candid and in-depth exchange of views on resolution of remaining areas related to disengagement along the Line of Actual Control in the Western Sector of India-China border areas”.

“The two sides noted that this…meeting was constructive, which further enhanced mutual understanding. They agreed to resolve these remaining issues in an expeditious manner in accordance with the existing agreements and protocols and maintain the momentum of dialogue and negotiations.”

“Parallel to the talks, China is also engaged in pin-prick tactics. They are building permanent structures very close to the border at many places and have quickened the pace of infrastructure development on their side. But we are hopeful of things improving at existing friction points,” a security officer has said.

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