According to new before-after satellite images released on Wednesday, nuclear-armed China has evacuated the border by dismantling a dozen of structures and moving vehicles along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). This development comes after India and China agreed on a disengagement plan which comprised of pulling back troops, tanks, and other equipment from the banks of Ladakh’s Pangong Tso. Both the North and South banks of the Pangong Tso Lake in the Ladakh region were flashpoints in the Indo-China border dispute.
The satellite imagery provided by Maxar Technologies reveals that the northern bank of the Pangong Tso lake is being evacuated by the Chinese military. The Chinese military had established camps in this region in late January.
Major Amit Bansal was inquired about the recent developments where he said that the de-escalation process happening in Ladakh is fast and on the terms laid by India. Earlier, this had never happened with China who continued being stubborn in all the border issues with the Indian side. Bansal also added, “Chinese intentions cannot be trusted, and India should remain vigilant especially in the North East where China is building massive infrastructure.”
Another official close to the recent developments at Pangong Tso lake was quoted saying, “What is happening now is that wherever troops, especially north and south of Pangong Tso, were in eyeball-to-eyeball contact, they have taken a step back to reduce tensions and pave way for further de-escalation.”
Indian Army releases pictures of Chinese troops reeling back
Meanwhile, the Indian Army released pictures and videos of the Chinese troops in the process of dismantling their bunkers around the Pangong lake earlier this week. The pictures provide clear evidence of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army retreating from the Northern and Southern banks of the Pangong lake in Eastern Ladakh.
In the pictures, the Chinese military can be seen pulling bank its main battle tanks and using a bulldozer to roll-over and flatten Chinese constructions like bunkers, tents and posts.
— PRO Kohima, Ministry Of Defence (@prodefkohima) February 16, 2021
According to the Defence Ministry sources, both sides are expected to be done with the disengagement process by the end of this week.
The entire ordeal of disengagement came after the Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh earlier this month announced that both sides have agreed on a disengagement. The minister told the parliament that troops of both sides will be pulled back in a “phased, coordinated and verified manner”. After the de-escalation process, military commanders would discuss other important agendas like concluding the standoff in the other parts of Ladakh.
Where are both sides retreating to?
According to reports, Indian soldiers will be moving back to the Dhan Singh Thapa post near Finger 3 which was the Indian Army’s last permanent base. Whereas Chinese soldiers will move back to the Sirijap post, near Finger 8, a location that they have claimed since it was last captured in the Indo-China 1962 war.
Rewind of the Indo-China Border Conflict
Tensions between the two nuclear-armed countries started rising along the Indian border in April 2020. In April, last year, the Indian side accused Chinese troops of intruding to its perceived side of the Line of Actual Control. China denied all the claims India made and said it was operating in its own area.
The tension reached new heights in June when 20 Indian soldiers were killed along with an undisclosed number of Chinese soldiers during a hand-to-hand melee in Galwan, Ladakh. It was the first time in decades since casualties were registered along the 3,500 km long-border.
In the meanwhile, the Indian Army launched a series of “pre-emptive” strikes in late August and early September 2020 and went on to occupy strategic heights on the south bank of Pangong Tso.
To combat the issue, the two sides indulged in multiple rounds of diplomatic and military talks. But neither of the sides could settle on an agreement until February this year. Both the countries finally agreed on a disengagement process during its 9th round of the Corps Commanders talk held at the Chinese side of LAC.
It should be noted that the withdrawal of Chinese troops also came after newly appointed US President Joe Biden made his first call to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday. Both the leaders agreed to strengthen the “Quad” framework during their call. “Quad” is an alliance between the US, Japan, Australia and India that is formed to resist the Chinese influence over the Indo-Pacific region.