China has tacitly confirmed troops of the People's Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF) in the disputed Galwan Valley along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) are withdrawing from some of their positions in the contested territory. The standoff between both sides remains, however, but Chinese troops are no longer standing on Indian territory in Ladakh province.
The Indian Army on Monday reported PLAGF troops taking down tents and dismantling structures they had built close to where Indian and Chinese soldiers engaged in a deadly hand-to-hand night on June 15. It said the PLAGF has only surrendered one kilometer of territory.
Indian Army sources said the PLAGF pullback is the first phase of the disengagement process. Further steps will be taken after the next round of military level talks.
Chinese convoys loaded with troops and supplies were seen withdrawing from the area. PLAGF troops were reported pulling back from Patrolling Point 14, Hotsprings and Gogra, which are hotly contested border zones.
Asked to confirm the PLAGF withdrawal from some of its positions in the valley, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian responded with an indirect confirmation. Zhao said both sides were "taking effective measures to disengage and ease the situation on the border." He seemed to suggest Indian Army troops are also withdrawing from contested areas in the valley.
Zhao hopes India will meet China halfway and take concrete measures to carry out what both sides have agreed to. He also asked India to continue to closely communicate through diplomatic and military channels, and work together with China to cool the situation at the border.
The escalation follows moves by the Indian Army to heavily reinforce its troops in the disputed areas. It also came after an appeal by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi on July 3 for China to withdraw from Indian territory.
"The situation cannot be normal unless China withdraws from the Indian territory," asserted Modi during a surprise visit to Ladakh province that borders the LAC.
In his visit, Modi blamed China's obsolete expansionist mindset for triggering the clash that left 20 Indian Army jawans dead, as well as some 40 men of the PLAGF.
"The era of expansionism is over. This is the era of development," declared Modi to Indian Army jawans stationed at Nimoo, which is some 240 km from the Galwan Valley where the June 15 fight took place.
Modi said examples are rife in the last century of countries that adopted an expansionist attitude and threatened world peace. These countries were eventually either destroyed or had to beat an ignominious retreat.
He said countries across the world are united against expansionism and oriented towards an age of development and open competition. Modi then declared China's withdrawal from Galwan is the only guarantor of peace in this hotly contested area.