A week ahead of a possible meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Uzbekistan, the two countries on Thursday announced the disengagement of their army troops from Patrolling Point (PP) 15 in the area of Gogra-Hotsprings at the LAC in the western sector.
The move breaks the year-long stalemate in the talks between India and China being held following the May 2020 standoff in Eastern Ladakh, with the last troop disengagement on PP 17A at the same Gogra-Hotsprings being announced in August of 2021.
In a joint statement issued on Thursday, the two countries stated that “according to the consensus reached in the 16th round of the India-China Corps Commander Level Meeting, the Indian and Chinese troops in the area of Gogra-Hotsprings (PP-15) have begun to disengage in a coordinated and planned way, which is conducive to the peace and tranquilly in the border areas.”
Soldiers from each side are being withdrawn from PP 15 along with weapons and other equipment, and the infrastructure will be dismantled as per a schedule that is being worked out jointly by junior commanders on the ground from the two armies. As per the earlier agreement, the two sides will create buffer zones on both sides of the friction points post disengagement. However, a thin presence is likely to remain for routine patrolling at the LAC.
Top Indian Army officials described the latest breakthrough as “very positive step” and insisted that all dialogue mechanisms for further disengagement at other friction points in Demchok and Depsang will be pushed in future to restore complete peace at the LAC.
After the last 16th round of the India-China Corps Commander Level Meeting at Chushul in July, the two sides had announced their intention to maintain “security and stability on the ground but sources stated that agreement on PP 15 troop pullout was achieved at that time only, and it was made public on Thursday since consensus on disengagement modalities had to be arrived at, added top Army officials.
Modi and Xingping are attending the two-day SCO Summit 2022, which begins on September 15, but the buzz is that the two leaders may meet on the sidelines.