India will adopt a cautious approach, cognizant of the risk of an “accident”, to the limited withdrawal by China’s People’s Liberation Army soldiers who had set off the stand-off at four locations in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley and Pangong Lake.
PLA has started troop withdrawal from the stand-off sites at three locations in the Galwan Valley and is in the process of dismantling some structures on Finger 4, one of the eight cliffs jutting out of the Sirijap range that overlooks the Pangong Lake.
The troop pullback till Monday evening was thinner, and slower at Finger 4 than the other locations, said an Indian military commander. “We need to keep track of the movements at Pangong Tso to arrive at any firm conclusion,” he said.
The army officer said PLA had been at a disadvantage in Galwan, Gogra and Hot Springs in terms of their military positions. In Pangong Tso, however, the situation favoured the Chinese since they had built a road up to Finger 4, he said.
Officials said the disengagement process was likely to be a gradual and calibrated process by both sides, with each point being negotiated by the military commanders on the ground.
China was the first to start thinning its troops at the site of the June 15 bloody clash that killed soldiers on both sides. Local army commanders quickly relayed the information to their superiors once they were able to establish a trend.
At just about 8.45 am on Sunday, Indian Army chief General MM Naravane picked up the phone to inform defence minister Rajnath Singh. Diplomats from the two countries touched base and by evening, they had fixed a quick video conference between National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and China’s foreign minister Wang Yi.
The conversation went on for about two hours. There were disagreements on who was to blame for the stand-off and the June 15 violence. But they had arrived at agreements on many points.
Doval told Wang that Beijing would need to restore the patrolling rights of the Indian army on these four points to ensure peace and tranquillity along the 1,597km Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Analysts insist that the litmus test of the success of the Doval-Wang conversation would be the restoration of the Indian patrolling rights on the north banks of the Pangong Lake.
Indian officials said the military buildup in the depth areas on both sides of the LAC would continue till the situation at the stand-off points did not settle down. India had mobilised thousands of soldiers, fighter jets, attack helicopters, tanks and artillery guns to respond to the Chinese mobilisation.
It was during the disengagement process that violence broke out on June 15, the worst clash between soldiers of the two countries in 45 years.