Satellite images show China emptying army camps at Indian border

Rivals agree to pull back military from Pangong Tso, a glacial lake that became a flashpoint in a border dispute.

Tensions began rising along the high-altitude border in April, when India accused Chinese troops of intruding into its side of the Line of Actual Control [File: Reuters]

China has dismantled dozens of structures and moved vehicles to empty out entire camps along a disputed Himalayan border, where Indian and Chinese troops have been locked in a face-off since last April, according to satellite images.

Satellite imagery of some areas on the northern bank of Pangong Tso from Tuesday supplied by Maxar Technologies shows that multiple Chinese military camps, which could be seen there in late January, have been removed.

The nuclear-armed neighbours last week announced a plan to pull back troops, tanks and other equipment from the banks of Pangong Tso, a glacial lake in the Ladakh region that had become a flashpoint in their prolonged border dispute.

“Similar action is happening from our side also,” an Indian official in New Delhi, who asked not to be named, told the Reuters news agency.

Close up of revetments and equipment along an area known as Finger 6, at Pangong Tso, in this handout satellite image provided by Maxar dated January 30, 2021 [Satellite image 2021 Maxar Technologies/Handout via Reuters]

India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told Parliament that both sides had agreed to pull back troops in “a phased, coordinated and verified manner” around Pangong Tso, after which military commanders would discuss ending the standoff in other parts of the Ladakh frontier.

Tensions began rising along the high-altitude border in April, when India accused Chinese troops of intruding into its side of the Line of Actual Control, the de facto border between the two Asian neighbours. China denied the allegation, saying it was operating in its own area.

But the confrontation spiralled in June when 20 Indian soldiers and an undisclosed number of Chinese troops were killed during hand-to-hand clashes in Ladakh’s Galwan region – the first such casualties along the 3,500km (2,200-mile) border in decades.

No settlement

Despite several subsequent rounds of diplomatic and military talks, India and China had been unable to settle on an agreement until February, making the ongoing first phase of the withdrawal critical.

Overview of deployments along areas known as Finger 7 and Finger 8, at Pangong Tso in this handout satellite image provided by Maxar dated February 16, 2021 [Satellite image 2021 Maxar Technologies/Handout via Reuters]

“What is happening now is that wherever troops, especially north and south of Pangong Tso, were in eyeball-to-eyeball contact, they have taken a step back to reduce tensions and pave way for further de-escalation,” the Indian official said.

Videos and images released by the Indian army earlier this week also showed Chinese troops dismantling bunkers and tents, as tanks, soldiers and vehicles moved out as part of the disengagement process.

But some experts have cautioned that the current withdrawal is only the first step in a potentially long, drawn-out process.

“It is still nowhere near a full disengagement or an agreement on what we should be doing,” India’s former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon told The Wire news outlet.

“We need much more than just disengagement. We need a return to the positions before April last year.”

Source: News Agencies

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