Chinese pulling back from finger area along Pangong

New Delhi: The military disengagement in eastern Ladakh is progressing gradually, with Chinese troops pulling back from the friction point at the Finger area along Pangong Tso after similar withdrawals from Galwan and Hot Springs.

While the Chinese army remains within the Indian perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) along the lake, soldiers have been pulled back from the base of Finger 4, the site of a violent clash in early May that left scores injured on both sides. However, they continue to occupy the heights, said people aware of the matter.

Chinese troops and vehicles are believed to have moved back slightly from the base of Finger 4 to the Finger 5 feature, but they still occupy the ridgeline where dozens of defensive structures were built over the past two months as the stand-off continued.

Vacating the ridgeline would be the next part of the disengagement process, said the people, even as a gradual thinning of troops is being observed in the area. Among the hotspots, Finger Area has been the most difficult to de-escalate given that Chinese troops came in more than 5 km and created new camps and defensive positions.

Moving away from Finger 4 is a significant step towards de-escalation but a lot remains to be done as the Indian perception of the LAC is at the Finger 8 feature, several kilometres east to the current location of Chinese troops, said people in the know. Worryingly, they said, fresh reports which are being studied suggest fresh artillery deployment by the Chinese army at Finger 6, which retains heavy troop presence as well.

Satellite images have shown the extent of Chinese construction between Finger 4 and 8, which included several new camps, jetties for boats and even a map of China drawn out along the banks of the lake.

People with knowledge of the matter also said the buffer zone at Galwan and Hot Springs area has now been established, indicating that the terms of disengagement decided at the corps commander level talks on June 30 are being followed. However, India’s armed forces are keeping a close eye on the withdrawals, with verification being the key word. Alertness levels are at their highest given that the deadly clash at Galwan that left 20 Indian soldiers dead occurred during the verification process of a previously decided disengagement.

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