Chinese Withdrawing From Galwan Point, Media Reports

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SRINAGAR: In a major development, media reports said the soldiers from both sides have started moving back from the contested Galwan Valley point and Hot Springs. These were termed as “the first signs of disengagement”. However, there has not been any major change in the Pangong lake area.

A satellite image of Galwan valley

The move back was reported PP14 in Galwan area, the same belt where the two armies clashed in June leading to the killing of 20 soldiers.

The Indian Express reported that the confirmation of troops moving back came after five days of the Corps Commander-level talks agreed in which step-by-step de-escalation was agreed upon. “Under this, both sides were supposed to withdraw manpower and structures and a verification was to be done by July 5,” the newspaper said.

The Express quoted teh government sources saying that the “process has commenced after some activity was seen on the Chinese side in Galwan yesterday evening where they have now dismantled the defences they had constructed and have cleared the area. Certain vehicles have also been coming to the location to take the troops towards their side.” It quoted a senior security establishment officer saying: “Teams from the Army did go to verify at some points where our forces are in a standoff. Detailed reports will reach us only tomorrow but there is evidence of some withdrawal of manpower and dismantling of structures, at least in the Galwan area.”

The officer told the newspaper that the “tardy” progress (of withdrawal) was not up to the desired level. “We do not know if that’s intentional. The weather in the past few days has not been good. At Galwan, the river is in spate. That can make the movement slower,” the unnamed source was saying.

Verification, however, has not taken place.

However, subsequent reports suggest things have started changing after India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval spoke to Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi on Sunday.  Reported said they spoke for two hours through a video link. After the meeting, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has issued a statement.

NSA Ajit Doval with Chinese Foreign Minister in Delhi in December 2019

“They (NSA Doval and Yi) re-affirmed that both sides should strictly respect and observe the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and should not take any unilateral action to alter the status quo and work together to avoid any incident in the future that could disturb peace and tranquillity in border areas,” MEA statement said. “It was also agreed that NSA Ajit Doval and Chinese FM Wang Yi will continue their conversations to ensure full and enduring restoration of peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas in accordance with the bilateral agreements and protocols.”

However, an ANI report said the Chinese heavy armoured vehicles are still present in depth areas in Galwan river valley. Army has, however, not issued a statement on the development, so far. The local commanders of the two armies had met at Chushul on June 30, the third meeting since the stand-off.

“Behind this development is a video call between National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councilor Wang Yi. During the call, they had a frank discussion on the recent developments, people familiar with the matter said.” Hindustan Times reported. It said the PLA “has possibly moved back by 1 to 1.5 km from the friction site, people familiar with developments said”.

In Pangong Tso, however, The Indian Express reported “the area between Finger 4 and Finger 8 where the Chinese have ramped up their presence since May, the de-escalation process is yet to be ascertained.” It added: “In the other standoff sites on PP15 and PP17A, Chinese rents are being dismantled, government sources said, adding that the Chinese military vehicles are still coming in. These sites fall in the Hot Springs sector, with PP17A also known as Gogra.”

Global Times, the Chinese government-controlled newspaper put a two-liner on its web site that reads: “Chinese FM Wang Yi talks to India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. The two sides reach positive consensus on China-India border dispute.”

In Beijing, China’s  Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian has said the front-line troops are taking “effective measures” and making “progress” to disengage and ease the tensions in the Galwan.

Asked about reports of Chinese troops pulling back from the flashpoint in Galwan, Zhao said “there is the progress made on front-line troops taking effective measures to disengage and ease the tensions.” The spokesman said the Chinese and Indian commander-level talks on June 30 walked the talk from an earlier meeting.

“We hope the Indian side will move towards China and through concrete actions implement the consensus and continue the close communication through military and diplomatic channels to jointly push for the de-escalation on the border region,” Zhao was quoted saying by the PTI.

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