China’s PLA has reportedly withdrawn more than 200 main battle tanks from the south bank of Pangong Tso. As many as 100 heavy vehicles deployed to ferry troops have returned from friction points on the north bank to the Srijap sector, East of Finger 8 (mountainous spur).
Indian daily Hindustan Times quoted an official as saying that the speed at which China has moved back its armored units is not only surprising but it also shows their capacity to deploy the tanks and heavy vehicles again. In case China redeploys the armored units, breaching the agreement, India has its plans in place.
“The speed of Chinese withdrawal since Wednesday also shows their capacity to deploy. It is a military art. The Indian side has also pulled back its armor but contingency plans are ready in case of a worst-case scenario,” the official told HT.
According to the agreement between New Delhi and Beijing, the Chinese PLA will be moving their troops to Finger 8 while the Indian Army would move back to Finger 3 – Dhan Singh Thapa base, restoring the status quo. There will be no patrolling from either side in the area.
Photos from the disengagement of armored formations in Chushul that took place on the India China border today. pic.twitter.com/aZXPSp3BhE
— Manu Pubby (@manupubby) February 11, 2021
Since the border stand-off began in May 2020, both India and China had undertaken heavy deployment of troops and armored units along the Line of Actual Control, the de facto border. A violent clash between their armies had resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers on June 15.
The Chinese defense ministry announced the disengagement of troops on Wednesday, followed by Indian defense minister Rajnath Singh’s statement in Parliament on Thursday, confirming the disengagement in Pangong Tso. Troops will also be withdrawn from other friction points.
While New Delhi will be closely monitoring the disengagement process, reports suggest India will vacate the strategic heights if China ensures disengagement at other friction points as well. The strategic heights in the Chushul area were occupied by the Indian troops in September 2020.
According to government officials, “the fundamental tenet behind the disengagement is that both armies will eventually go back to their permanent bases as existed in April 2020”.
The stand-off had begun after India had inaugurated roads leading to the China border from Lipulekh between India’s Uttarakhand state and the Tibet region of China in April 2020.
Beijing has been raising objections to the infrastructure development being undertaken by India along the loosely demarcated border. The difference in the understanding of the Line of Actual Control between the two countries had resulted in border stand-offs and skirmishes in the past and. However, the current impasse is the longest military stand-off between the two Asian neighbors.