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Indian, Chinese troops begin to move back

New Delhi: In the first signs of easing tensions between India and China on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, soldiers of both sides have started moving back from a number of friction points.

NSA Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who are designated Special Representatives on the Sino-India boundary question, held a telephonic conversation on Sunday during which they had a "frank and in-depth exchange" of views and agreed that a "complete disengagement" of troops at the "earliest" was necessary for full restoration of peace in the border areas, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Monday. It was the first time that Doval and Wang held talks during the ongoing stand-off. The conversation is learnt to have lasted for around two hours.

Government sources said Chinese troops removed tents and are pulling back by up to 1.5 km from the area around patrolling point 14 in the Galwan Valley besides starting the rearward movement of vehicles and troops in Hot Springs and Gogra.

There were reports that Chinese troops have also removed some tents from areas around Finger 4 in Pangong Tso. However, sources added a clear picture will emerge only after a thorough verification is carried out.

Sources said the disengagement is taking place as per a decision arrived at during the military talks on June 30 that both sides would create a minimum buffer zone of 3 km in the area around Galwan river, and Indian troops are also moving accordingly.

The Indian Army will carry out a thorough verification of the Chinese pull back, said a source.

In the talks, Doval and Wang re-affirmed that both sides should "strictly respect" and observe the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and should not take any unilateral action to alter the status quo, the MEA said. The two special representatives agreed to continue talks to ensure "full and enduring restoration" of peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas.

In Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry also issued a statement which said that Wang and Doval reached "positive common understandings" over easing the current border situation and underlined the need to act promptly on the consensus reached by their military commanders to complete the disengagement of the front-line troops at the LAC as soon as possible.

In sync with the mutual understanding, India is also likely to bring down the number of troops from certain face-off areas, sources added. The MEA said Doval and Wang agreed to "take guidance from the consensus of leaders" that maintenance of peace and tranquillity in border areas was essential for further development of bilateral ties and that the two sides should not allow differences to become disputes.

"Therefore, they agreed that it was necessary to ensure at the earliest complete disengagement of the troops along the LAC and de-escalation from India-China border areas for full restoration of peace and tranquillity," it said.

"In this regard, they further agreed that both sides should complete the ongoing disengagement process along the LAC expeditiously. The two sides should also ensure a phased and stepwise de-escalation in the India-China border areas," the MEA added.

It was re-affirmed that both sides should "strictly respect and observe" the LAC and should not take any unilateral action to alter the status quo, besides working together to avoid any incident in the future that could disturb peace and tranquillity in the border areas.

It was also agreed that the two special representatives will continue their conversations to ensure full and enduring restoration of peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas in accordance with the bilateral agreements and protocols, the MEA furhre said.

The Indian and Chinese armies have been locked in a bitter standoff in multiple locations in eastern Ladakh for the last eight weeks.

The tension between the two countries escalated manifold after the killing of 20 Indian soldiers in Galwan Valley in Ladakh. The Chinese side also suffered casualties but it is yet to give out the details.

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