India and China began to pull back troops and battle tanks on Thursday from a disputed lake area high in the western Himalayas. The move came after months of tensions on the disputed border.
Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh told parliament the two sides had reached an agreement to withdraw from Pangong Tso, a high-mountain, glacial lake, following a series of talks.
“Our sustained talks with China have led to agreement on disengagement on the north and south banks of the Pangong lake,” Singh said.
China’s defense ministry confirmed that troops from the two countries were pulling back from the lake area.
The dispute began last April. India said Chinese troops had entered deep into its side of the border, called the Line of Actual Control, in the western Himalayas. China said its troops were operating in its own area and accused Indian border guards of making aggressive actions.
India and China have not been able to agree on their 3,500-kilometer-long border since the two countries fought a war in 1962. Instead, the two militaries hold positions.
Last June, the Indian Army said at least 20 of its soldiers were killed in direct fighting with Chinese troops near the lake. The incident marked the first conflict-related deaths on the border in 45 years. The Chinese side also suffered an unknown number of injuries or deaths. Since then, both countries had moved troops, tanks and other weapons close to the border.
Singh said the Indian government had told China’s government that peace and calm had been seriously harmed by the actions of Chinese troops. He said relations between the countries had also suffered.
Singh said the two sides decided for troops to “return to the permanent and accepted bases.”
Pangong Lake is a narrow body of water that extends from China’s Tibet Autonomous Region and into India’s Ladakh region. Singh said the two countries had agreed to take down defense structures they had built on the two sides of the lake.
Once the disengagement has been completed at the lake, Singh said military commanders would meet to discuss pullback from other areas.
I’m Ashley Thompson.
The Reuters news agency reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
Words in This Story
glacial –adj. related to glaciers: frozen rivers of ice on mountains and in Arctic areas
sustained –adj. dealt with or carried out over time
disengagement –n. (military) the act of ordering an end to fighting and to move away from an area
banks –n. (pl.) the sides of a river or lake
region –n. an area of a country that is different or separate from other parts