India-China row: Pangong Tso disengagement to be completed by Friday
The first phase of disengagement along the India-China border around Ladakh's Pangong Tso lake will reportedly be complete by Friday. Earlier this week, both nations had announced that they would start the disengagement process in accordance with the consensus reached during the ninth round of corps commander-level talks held on January 24. The situation along the border has remained tense since last May.
According to Hindustan Times, the disengagement between the Indian Army and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is proceeding as per the agreed schedule and is scheduled to be completed by February 19. Reportedly, satellite imagery showed rapid movement of Chinese heavy vehicles beyond the Finger 8 region. The PLA had reportedly withdrawn over 200 main battle tanks from the lake's south banks by Thursday.
Speaking about the disengagement plan—under which both sides have to return to their bases prior to April 2020—a senior official told HT, "I understand good progress has already been achieved towards this objective. The PLA is moving very quickly..." A senior military commander added, "Disengagement is only step one to the entire process, with peace and tranquillity a long way off."
Reportedly, there is evidence of withdrawal by Chinese main battle tanks and Indian armor and artillery guns from the southern banks of Pangong Tso. However, there is reportedly no evidence of any Chinese withdrawal from depth areas or from central or eastern sectors.
Under the disengagement plan, the PLA will move east of Finger 8 on the Srijap plain. The Indian Army will move back to the Dhan Singh Thapa post on Finger 3. The area between Finger 4 and 8 will be demilitarized. Further disengagement in Gogra-Hot Springs and Depsang will be discussed after the Pangong Tso withdrawal is complete.
Tensions along the Indo-China border intensified after clashes between the two forces at various locations in early-May last year. The series of escalations included a fatal clash that erupted in the Galwan Valley on June 15, which led to the martyrdom of 20 Indian Army soldiers and a disputed number of Chinese fatalities. Both sides have blamed each other for escalating the conflict.
Last month, the Indian Army had confirmed that India and China had clashed along the LAC in Sikkim. The Army had said that it was a "minor face-off" with "insignificant and minor injuries," adding that tensions were "resolved by local commanders as per established protocols."