Under the India-China agreement on the disengagement process in eastern Ladakh, the Chinese army will pull back its troops to east of Finger 8 areas in the northern bank of Pangong lake, defence minister Rajnath Singh said in Parliament on Thursday, in what is seen as a significant step to dial down tensions in the key face-off site.
Reciprocally, the defence minister said, Indian troops will be based at their permanent location at Dhan Singh Thapa post near Finger 3 areas.
Singh’s statement clearly implied that the areas between the Indian position in Finger 3 and Finger 8 will effectively become a no-patrolling zone till a resolution on future deployment is reached, defence experts said.
The Chinese military built several bunkers and other structures in the areas between Finger 4 and 8 and had blocked all Indian patrols beyond Finger 4, triggering strong reaction from the Indian Army.
In the nine rounds of military talks, India was specifically insisting on withdrawal of Chinese troops from Finger 4 to Finger 8 on the North bank of Pangong Lake.
Dr Laxman Behera, associate professor at the National Security Centre in Jawaharlal Nehru University, described as significant the announcement that Chinese army will pull back troops to Finger 8 areas. “I think it will be a major step in taking forward the overall disengagement process though it came very late,” Behera said.
Around five months ago, Indian troops occupied a number of strategic heights in the Mukhpari, Rechin La and Magar hill areas around the southern bank of the Pangong lake after the Chinese military attempted to intimidate them in the area. “A similar action would be taken in the South bank area by both sides. These are mutual and reciprocal steps and any structures that had been built by both sides since April 2020 in both North and South bank areas will be removed and the landforms will be restored,” the defence minister said.