A 2-hour phone call between Ajit Doval & Chinese Foreign Minister plays a crucial role in PLA finally removing tents and shifting from Galwan clash site, vehicles move back in other areas too.
India and China have started showing first signs of disengagement at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh where the situation has been volatile for over two months.
The removal of Chinese tents in Galwan Valley followed a two-hour telephonic conversation on Sunday between the Special Representatives of India and China on the Boundary Question.
India’s National Security Advisor (NSA), Ajit Doval, and China’s State Councillor and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wang Yi, spoke to each other, two days after Prime Minster Narendra Modi’s visit to operational areas in Ladakh.
Officials observing the situation on the ground call it a “piecemeal de-escalation” and a first step taken to defuse the situation.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has removed tents and structures at Patrol Point 14 in Galwan Valley of Eastern Ladakh where the bloody clash took place on June 15 but the retreat has to be verified on the ground, government sources said.
“Removal of tents is visible but whether they have pulled back needs to be verified on ground,” said an official. The talks at the NSA’s have had a big impact on the two armies. After three rounds of top military commanders talks, a need was felt to escalate the dialogue to reach a consensus for a resolution, government sources said. In Galwan, 20 Indian soldiers, including a commanding officer, were killed in the ugly clashes. China has not revealed its casualties, though reports from the ground indicated they faced losses.
The disengagement has started as per terms agreed in the Corps Commanders meeting on June 30. “No specific distance of the pull back can be confirmed as it needs to be verified,” said another official.
India Today TV has reported earlier that China has claimed in meetings that it is 800 metres away from its claim line in Galwan. Sources said PLA has been seen removing tents, and vehicles have also moved back in Galwan, Hot Springs and Gogra. After the previous meeting at the Corp Commanders level, it was decided that a 72-hour period will be used for verification on the ground once the field commanders have decided to move back in their discussions.
“Till now both sides are sticking to the plans discussed for disengagement in a phased manner,” said an official.
WHAT LIES AHEAD
This is only the first phase and other friction areas will be taken up gradually by field commanders. Sources said while tents have been removed and some thinning of troops was visible, it’s not that soldiers at the point have left the area in Galwan. There is still a presence of troops from both sides close to the point of confrontation but the numbers are less compared to before.
While some disengagement has happened in Galwan, Hot Springs and Gogra, the situation at Pangong Lake hasn’t changed much. At Pangong Lake, another flashpoint where clashes have taken place in the last two months, there are reports of Chinese removing some structures but there is no sign of moving back or de-escalation yet.
At Pangong Lake, a 2-3 km retreat is not acceptable to India and could remain a sticking point. This would mean a retreat from Finger 4, that’s always been under Indian control. India claims LAC at finger 8.
The Chinese are currently camping at Finger 4 and have set up bunkers and observation posts between Finger 4 and Finger 8, a distance of about 8 km. More meetings are expected both at the military and the diplomatic level, to arrive at mutually agreeable solution and to ensure peace and tranquillity along the LAC as per bilateral agreements and protocols.
THE DOVAL FACTOR
The Special Representatives mechanism was activated on Sunday. The thrust of the phone call between Doval and Wang was to ensure “earliest and complete disengagement” of the troops along the LAC and “de-escalation” to ensure “restoration of peace and tranquillity”.
The thrust also was to work together to avoid any future incident and to continue conversations to ensure full and enduring restoration of peace and tranquillity in accordance with the bilateral agreements and protocols. Both sides had a “frank and indepth exchange of views” on the recent developments in the Western Sector of the India-China border areas, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement on Monday.
The Indian side focused on the specifics of the conversation and the way forward.
“The two Special Representatives agreed that the diplomatic and military officials of the two sides should continue their discussions, including under the framework of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China border affairs (WMCC), and implement the understandings reached in a timely manner to achieve the above outcomes”, said the MEA statement.
The two Special Representatives agreed that both sides should take “guidance” from the consensus reached by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the two informal summits of Wuhan (2018) and Mamallapurm (2019) when both leaders agreed to not allow “differences” to become “disputes”.
The two sides agreed to adhere to the agreements signed by the two countries and making joint efforts to ease the situation in the border areas.
Both sides agreed to strengthen diplomatic communication through Special Representatives and WMCC talks without interruption.
THE CHINESE VIEW
While the Indian side hit a conciliatory note, the Chinese statement added its stated position on Galwan.
“The right and wrong of what recently happened at the Galwan Valley in the western sector of the China-India boundary is very clear. China will continue firmly safeguarding our territorial sovereignty as well as peace and tranquility in the border areas”, a Chinese foreign ministry statement said.
According to the statement, Wang Yi stressed that both sides should adhere to the “strategic assessment” instead of “posing threats”.
“We hope India can work with China to guide public opinion in the right direction, keep and advance bilateral exchanges and cooperation, and avoid amplifying the differences and complicating matters so as to jointly uphold the big picture of China-India relations”, the Chinese statement said.
(With inputs from India Today and Manjeet Singh Negi in Leh)