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India and China reach deal to end months-long standoff over contested border region

Indian army convoy drives towards Leh, on a highway bordering China, June 19, 2020. [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 February, 2021

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Frontline troops began to pull back from the shores of the Himalayas' lake on Wednesday after several rounds of talks
India and China have agreed to pull back troops from a disputed border area after a months-long standoff, the Indian defence minister said on Thursday.

Rajnath Singh told parliament that "sustained talks with China have led to agreement on disengagement on the north and south banks of the Pangong Lake", where Ladakh meets Tibet.  

"To ensure disengagement in friction points along the LAC [Line of Actual Control], 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," he said.

The agreement was reached after several rounds of talks between military commanders and diplomats. China's defence ministry said frontline troops from the two countries had begun to pull back from the shores of the lake on Wednesday.

The standoff in the bitterly contested area in the western Himalayas began when India said Chinese troops had breached the de facto border in the Ladakh area in April last year.

China refuted the claim, saying its troops were operating on its own territory and accused Indian border guards of provocative actions.

Read also: India to lift lengthy internet clampdown in Kashmir: official

The 3,500 km (2,200 miles) long Sino-Indian border has remained hotly contested since war broke out over this stretch of land in 1962.  

In June, 20 Indian soldiers were killed in the first combat on the border in 45 years when the two sides clashed with iron rods and stones in the Galwan Valley.  China also suffered an unspecified number of casualties.

The Indian Army deployed six T-90 missile-firing tanks and top-of-the-line shoulder-fired anti-tank missile systems in the Galwan Valley as tensions escalated.

China has about 350 tanks in eastern Ladakh. These include ZTZ-99 and ZTZ-88 tanks and infantry combat vehicles.

Armoured personnel vehicles and tanks were being removed by both sides from the LAC.

The agreement represents the first major breakthrough in talks to resolve the nine-month military standoff along the LAC since the clashes on the banks of Pangong Lake.

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