India-China border talks: Focus shifts to Pangong Tso lake as troops pull back from friction points

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Updated: Jul 10, 2020 10:35 AM

The focus is now on Pangong Tso. The People's Liberation Army, even after reduction, still has a large number of troops at Finger 4 on the northern banks of the lake.

India-China border stand-offThe Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination is likely to meet on Friday and the Corps Commanders next week. (Photo: The Indian Express)

India-China border standoff: In a further sign of improvement in border situation, as part of the first round of disengagement along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, on Thursday both Indian and Chinese forces pulled back 2 km from Patrolling Point 17A at the Gogra post, reported The Indian Express. This is the third friction point from which both Indian and Chinese forces stepped back; PP 14 in Galwan Valley and PP 15 in Hot Springs sector are the other two points.

The move had paved the way for another round of talks between the two countries, especially on Pangong Tso where Chinese troops, even after reduction, are still present in large numbers at Finger 4 on the northern banks of the lake.

“Following the consensus reached at the commander-level talks, the Chinese and India border troops have been taking effective measures to disengage at Galwan Valley and other areas in the western sector, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in Beijing as reported by The Indian Express.

“The overall situation at the China-India boundary is stable and ameliorating.”

He said both Indian and China will continue to maintain dialogue and communication through military and diplomatic channels; the two sides will hold a new round of commander-level talks and the meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs, among others for resolution of differences through dialogue.

“We hope India will work with China towards the same goal to implement the consensus reached between the two sides with concrete actions and jointly de-escalate tensions in the border region,” Zhao Lijian said.

Sources said the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) might meet on Friday and the Corps Commanders next week, reported The Indian Express.

At PP 17, the troops pulled back was completed post noon and both forces have moved by 2 km behind PP 17A. “It has been completely vacated now under the same formula as PP 14 and PP 15…there will be no patrolling until further orders,” said a senior officer of the security establishment.

However, the situation at Pangong Tso is very different, said the official. At Pangong Tso alone, the Chinese forces have a combined strength of the troops it withdrew from PP 14, PP 15, and PP 17A. The Chinese were not ready to talk about Pangong Tso during the initial couple of meetings, said the official. “It was only when India said we will not talk about other areas if Pangong Tso is not included that they agreed,” the official said. “Our primary objective at the moment is that China must vacate Finger 4 first,” he said.

Even as diplomatic engagements are on at the highest level, an official of the Union Home Ministry said, “Another Corps Commander meeting may perhaps draw up a robust plan.”

While there has been a further reduction of troops from the Finger 4 base area, The Indian Express reported a senior Army officer as saying, “There is no change on the ridgeline of Finger 4”, where Chinese troops continue to hold positions.

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