Military disengagement from Gogra-Hot Springs border area comes ahead of expected Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi meeting.
Indian and Chinese troops have begun disengaging from a key friction point in the western Himalayas, both sides have confirmed, two years after clashes at the frontier strained diplomatic ties.
The military disengagement from the Gogra-Hot Springs border area comes ahead of a meeting in Uzbekistan next week that China’s President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are expected to attend.
Both sides said disengagement was taking place in a coordinated and “planned” way that would help to keep peace on the border.
China’s defence ministry said on Friday that troops from both sides had started to disengage in a “synchronised and planned” manner from the area of “Jianan Daban” – using the Chinese name for the disputed border area.
The disengagement “is conducive to maintaining peace and tranquillity in the border areas,” the ministry said.
Although both countries still had thousands of soldiers along the de facto border, known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC) – and are backed by artillery, tanks and fighter jets – “eyeball-to-eyeball contact has ended”, an Indian defence source told Reuters on Thursday.
“This is the first step towards a calmer LAC,” said the source, who declined to be identified as they are not authorised to speak to the media.
India and China share an un-demarcated 3,800km (2,360 mile) border, where their troops previously adhered to longstanding protocols to avoid the use of any firearms.
There have been 16 rounds of meetings between senior military commanders from both sides since June 2020 when Indian and Chinese troops clashed in the Galwan area of the Ladakh region.
At least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers were killed in hand-to-hand fighting in the Galwan Valley in June 2020, the first combat losses on the disputed border in more than 40 years.
The clashes led to a sharp escalation in tension between the nuclear-armed Asian giants, and troops remained in close proximity on other parts of the undefined border including at Gogra-Hot Springs and the Depsang plains, officials said.
India also moved some 50,000 troops along contested areas in Ladakh to match Chinese deployments, some of them at altitudes of more than 15,000 feet (4,572 metres), where scarce oxygen and freezing temperatures can be life-threatening.
As part of an earlier agreement to pull back troops from potential flashpoints, Chinese troops dismantled dozens of structures and moved vehicles to empty out entire camps from the banks of the Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh in February 2021.
Both countries, which fought a full-scale border war in1962, have regularly accused each other of trying to seize territory along their unofficial divide, the LAC.