Indian and Chinese Troops Start Pulling Back in Disputed Region
Overhead road signage stands at the side of Tsongmo Lake en route to the Nathula Pass, an open trading post in the Himalayas between India and China, in Sikkim, India. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

Indian and Chinese Troops Start Pulling Back in Disputed Region

Indian and Chinese troops have begun pulling back from large tracts of land along their remote Himalayan boundary, a move aimed at defusing a nine-week standoff between the two nuclear-armed neighbors that resulted in the loss of lives on both sides.

Armies are falling back at several places in Ladakh including Pangong Tso -- a glacial lake at 14000 feet in the Tibetan plateau -- and a region claimed by both the countries, an official with knowledge of the matter told reporters Wednesday, asking not to be identified citing rules on speaking to the media. India is keen on marking the what’s known as the Line of Actual Control -- their 3,488 kilometer (2,167 mile) unmarked boundary -- based on the present ground position of the troops to prevent further clashes.

China and India had agreed to clarify the Line of Actual Control in 1993, however the talks ran aground in 2002.

“This process should be restarted and clarification of the LAC, if done, would help in reducing the border incidents,” said S.L. Narasimhan, a retired army officer and member of the National Security Council Advisory Board, who advises the government on China.

China has always maintained the settlement should take into consideration factors including historical evidence and the actual situation at the border. “Pending final settlement, two sides should abide by and respect the Line of Actual Control and make joint efforts to ensure peace and tranquility in the border region,” the spokesperson’s office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement late Wednesday.

The development follows several rounds of talks between the military and diplomats to end the worst border crisis between China and India in four decades that left 20 Indian troops and unknown number of Chinese soldiers dead in a fierce skirmish in the region on June 15. Apart from the generals, India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi spoke over the weekend to defuse the situation.

Even though troops are falling back, bringing relative calm along to the borders, a complete de-escalation -- whereby thousands of troops, artillery guns and tanks that were rushed to the border by both sides are removed -- remains uncertain, the official said.

Anticipating the worst, the Indian military is preparing to position additional troops and equipment through the harsh winter and closely monitoring Chinese troop movements. Fresh structures to house soldiers on the Chinese side will indicate the People’s Liberation Army is not moving back to their garrisons located far away, the official added.

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