China begins pullout from Chumar region

Status quo will be restored by Sept 30

China begins pullout from Chumar region

The two-week- long border standoff between India and China in the Chumar region has finally ended after the People’s Liberation Army  on Friday sta­r­ted to pull back its troops.

“I am happy to tell you that both nations have sat down and resolved the (border standoff) issue. Timelines have been decided,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told the media in New York. It has been decided that status quo would be restored at Chumar by September 30.

Army officials refused to give details of the disengagement operation saying it is a “tactical drill”, details of which cannot be shared. Leh-based 14 Corps is in-charge of the operation.

“This is a big accomplishment,” Sushma said. The standoff between the two armies cast a shadow on the summit meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Though Modi took up the issue with Xi, diplomats from both countries worked overtime to ease the eyeball-to-eyeball situation.

Beijing’s new envoy to New Delhi, Le Yucheng, had detailed discussion with Pradeep Rawat, joint secretary (East Asia), twice in the last two days to tie up the loose ends. Indian Ambassador to China Ashok Kanth, too, met officials in China’s foreign and defence ministries on Thursday.

“The Indian foreign minister said the dispute has effectively been managed and the border area is in tranquillity. So we believe that with the concerted efforts with India, we can maintain peace and tranquillity in the border area,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said in Beijing on Friday.

It has been decided that China will not continue with its road building activities, whereas India will have to close down its surveillance post. There is, however, no official word on the existence of such a post. 

The Army claimed that they only wanted to block Chinese attempts to construct a road close to an Indian military post named 30R. Located in south-east Ladakh, Chumar is a high mountain area where Indian posts are located at dominating positions overlooking Chepzi area in Tibet Autonomous Region.

The Army claims that China wants to extend a road up to Drongmar Ridge Line that defines the border, jeopardising India's strategic advantage. 

A retired Indian diplomat, Phunchok Stobdan, however, spilled the beans when he spoke about the existence of Indian observation posts in Chumar, apparently the main reason behind the standoff.

The Chumar crisis is reminiscent of 2013 Depsang Bulge incursion. China withdrew only after New Delhi agreed to dismantle a “tin shed” in Chumar, which is believed to have housed surveillance equipment.

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