PLA soldiers and their vehicles have now completely withdrawn from “the base” of Finger-4 eastwards to Finger-5 on the north bank of Pangong Tso, as was agreed in the June 30 meeting of the corps commanders, sources said on Thursday.
Though PLA is yet to vacate the ridge-line that dominates the Finger-4 area, the over 800-metre pullback at the base is a “positive signal” for the completion of phase-I of the de-escalation plan decided between 14 Corps commander Lt Gen Harinder Singh and South Xinjiang Military District chief Major Gen Liu Lin, said sources.
But PLA troops still remain in the Finger-5 to -8 area. India contends that the Line of Actual Control (LAC) runs north to south at Finger-8. We will wait and watch over the next three to four days if the PLA also vacates the heights at Finger-4, where they have built several defences like pill-boxes, as was agreed in phase-I. It will obviously figure in the meeting of the corps commanders next week, said a source. Satellite pictures indicate that there are more than 186 Chinese tents and shelters which have been set up across the disputed region since the tensions began. So far, there has been a marginal thinning out of forces in the Finger 4 region by China though they continue to occupy the ridge-lines between Finger 4 and Finger 8.
At the moment, Chinese and Indian forces have mutually withdrawn 2 kilometres each in the Galwan Valley, Hot Springs and Gogra. Crucial talks at the Joint Secretary level of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination will continue talks towards an eventual restoration of the status quo across Ladakh before reports of Chinese incursions in five regions came in during the month of April.
India will seek to patrol the portion of the Fingers Region along the Pangong Lake in Ladakh which it was prevented from doing after a large-scale Chinese incursion in the area once tensions between the two countries subside.