A temporary buffer zone has been created, just like in other friction points where disengagement took place, so that troops from both sides don’t come face-to-face again

New Delhi: Indian and Chinese troops Monday completed the disengagement process at Hot Springs area in eastern Ladakh.

The development came ahead of the crucial Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit this week, to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Uzbekistan.

However, the larger issue of de-escalation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and disengagement at Depsang Plains and Demchok still remains.

Sources in the defence and security establishment said troops from both sides, who were in a face-off since mid-2020, have pulled back to the agreed positions. They also said all temporary shelters built by both forces at Patrol Point 15, known as the larger Gogra-Hot Springs area, have been dismantled and land levelling has been done.

The sources further said that a temporary buffer zone has been created, just like in other friction points where disengagement took place, so that troops don’t come face-to-face again. This means that there would be no patrolling by troops from either side.

Monday’s development comes days after a joint statement was issued by the armies on 8 September that said, “According to the consensus reached in the 16th round of India- China Corps Commander Level Meeting, the Indian and Chinese troops in the area of Gogra-Hot Springs (PP-15) have begun to disengage in a coordinated and planned way, which is conducive to the peace and tranquillity in the border areas”.

The Ministry of External Affairs had also said the two sides have agreed to cease forward deployments in this area in a phased, coordinated and verified manner, resulting in the return of the troops to their respective areas.

MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had also said, “It has been agreed that all temporary structures and other allied infrastructure created in the area by both sides will be dismantled and mutually verified. The landforms in the area will be restored to the pre stand-off period by both sides.”

Depsang Plains And De-Escalation Main Agenda Now

While the disengagement process was completed, sources explained that the road ahead is long. They said the main objective now would be to ensure that the situation in Depsang Plains, where the Chinese have blocked Indians from accessing five patrolling points, is brought back to normal.

Sources explained that even though it is a legacy issue, Depsang Plains saw massive deployment changes and build-up by the Chinese since May 2020.

The same holds true for Demchok, where the Chinese have set up about three to five tents across Charding Nilong Nallah, a territory claimed by India.

Sources said that besides these two issues, India’s focus is now on de-escalation. This means all additional troops and equipment deployed in forward areas will go back to pre-April 2020 status.

The Chinese have built massive infrastructure, most of them permanent in nature, including logistical arrangement, roads and surface-to-air defence systems, besides radars and observation stations.