India and China have agreed to disengage troops from a hotly disputed border area in the western Himalayas where they have had a contentious standoff since last spring.
Al Jazeera reported that although both sides have been disputing control of the mountainous region for several decades, on Thursday, Indian Minister of Defense Rajnath Singh said they had reached an agreement where both will disengage their military forces.
“Our sustained talks with China have led to agreement on disengagement on the north and south banks of Pangong Lake,” Singh told members of India’s parliament, referencing the talks with China. The talks had been going on since last spring. Singh said the two sides would begin “a phased, coordinated, and verified” withdrawal by both sides.
Singh assured Indian lawmakers, however, that despite the disengagement agreement India was far from conceding the territory to China.
“India and China will remove forward deployments in a phased, coordinated manner. I want to assure this house that in these talks we have not conceded anything,” he added.
Tensions between the two countries had been rising concerning Pangong Tso Lake in the Ladakh region and last June those tensions exploded. Indian and Chinese troops clashed with fists, rocks, and iron bars in a Stone Age-type battle that took the lives of at least 20 Indian soldiers and an untold amount of Chinese troops. The PLA didn’t release any casualty numbers.
Since the clash in June, the two countries had moved thousands of troops, tanks, artillery guns, and combat jets close to the border as the threat of escalation rose.
India and China fought a war in 1962 over the disputed territory. They have been unable to agree on where their mutual 2,200-mile-long border, known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), is.
Pangong Lake is a finger of water extending from China’s Tibet Autonomous Region in India’s Ladakh region. China currently controls about two-thirds of the disputed territory.
The Guardian was one of several media outlets that reported that Singh’s announcement came one day after the Chinese government said it was beginning a “synchronized and organized disengagement.”
“To ensure disengagement in friction points along the LAC, it was our view that troops of both sides, who are now in close proximity, should vacate the forward deployments made in 2020 and return to the permanent and accepted bases,” Singh said.
Earlier this week, President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed to strengthen Indo-Pacific security through the so-called “Quad” in a move to counter recent Chinese aggressiveness. The Quad consists of India, United States, Japan, and Australia.