AFP, Reuters, DPA/New Delhi
Chinese troops were seen removing structures from a Himalayan valley where they fought a deadly battle with Indian soldiers last month, Indian army sources said yesterday, after high-level talks between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
Brutal hand-to-hand fighting in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh on June 15 left 20 Indian soldiers dead and sent tensions between the countries soaring.
China has acknowledged it suffered casualties but has not given figures.
The two sides agreed on Sunday to “completely disengage” from the border flashpoint and ensure “a phased and stepwise de-escalation in the India-China border areas,” India’s foreign ministry said yesterday.
In a CCTV readout of the meeting, China’s representative Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing would “effectively defend its territorial sovereignty, while maintaining peace in the border areas”.
The decision was taken after Wang had “a frank and in-depth exchange of views” with India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.
Earlier, an Indian army source said that China’s People’s Liberation Army soldiers were seen removing tents and structures in the Galwan Valley, and military vehicles were being moved back.
“Disengagement with the PLA has started as per agreed terms in the Corps Commanders’ meeting,” the source said, adding the Indian army was verifying how far back Chinese forces had withdrawn.
There was no comment on whether there was a similar withdrawal by Indian troops.
But NDTV network reported that both sets of troops had withdrawn by at least 1km in the valley and a buffer zone had been created between the two sides.
Indian officials however declined to give specific distances.
New Delhi was waiting to see if this was a “lasting, genuine disengagement,” NDTV reported, and whether the disengagement would cover other disputed areas in Ladakh.
The Galwan Valley incident was the first time in 45 years that soldiers had died in combat on the Asian giants’ long-disputed border.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing yesterday that both sides had made “positive progress to disengage frontline troops and ease the border situation”.
“We hope that the Indian side will go with the Chinese side to implement the consensus reached by both sides with practical actions,” Zhao added.
India and China fought a war over the frontier in 1962.
Anti-China sentiment has been growing in India since the high-altitude clash, with the government banning Chinese mobile apps including the wildly popular TikTok.
The Congress, which has been questioning Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the border face-off, credited the armed forces for yesterday’s development.
But the opposition party said Modi has to reply to tough questions.
The prime minister should himself come forward and tell what is the truth though at the all-party meeting, he had said that Indian territory has been occupied,” Congress spokesman Pawan Khera said at a press conference.
“We demand that the prime minister should tell the facts to the nation,” Khera said.
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