India, China dis-engage on Ladakh border as theater of tension shifts to S China Sea

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Indian Army personnel holding Swarnim Vijay Victory Flame reach the frozen frontiers of Siachen Glacier commemorating 50 Years of Indian Armed Forces' victory over Pakistan in the 1971 Indo-Pak War on Tuesday. (ANI Photo)

China has announced that it will hold a 5-day military exercise from Friday in the South China Sea as tensions escalate in the region

Our Bureau
Leh/New Delhi  

In a step towards defusing tensions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), India and China have disengaged troops from the Gogra heights area and moved them back to their permanent bases.

“The troops in this area have been in a face-off situation since May last year. One step at a time towards standoff resolution. As per the agreement reached during corpus commander talks, both sides have ceased forward deployments in PP-17 in a phased, coordinated and verified manner,” an Army spokesperson said. The disengagement process was carried out over two days on August 4 and 5 and troops of both sides are now in their respective permanent bases.

The spokesperson said that all temporary structures and other allied infrastructure created in the area by both sides have been dismantled and mutually verified. The landform in the area has been restored by both sides to the pre-stand off period.

This agreement ensures that the LAC in this area will be strictly observed and respected by both sides and that there is no unilateral change in the status quo.

“With this, one more sensitive area of face-off has been resolved. Both sides have expressed commitment to take the talks forward and resolve the remaining issues along the LAC in the Western Sector,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said the Indian Army along with ITBP is totally committed to ensure the sovereignty of the country and maintain peace and tranquillity along the LAC in the Western Sector.

In the 12th round of military talks, India and China had agreed to disengage troops from patrolling point 17A, one of the friction points between the two countries in the eastern Ladakh region.

Meanwhile in Beijing, China has announced that it will hold a 5-day military exercise from Friday in the South China Sea as tensions escalate in the region. The exercise, which will include setting up a vast navigation restriction zone, comes as the US and other countries in the region are building pressure on Beijing by holding large-scale military drills. The announcement comes just days after India announced that it will deploy a task force of four warships to South East Asia, the South China Sea, and the Western Pacific.

The Indian ships are set to participate in the next edition of the Malabar exercise of the Quad (India, Japan, Australia, and the United States) and will also be included in bilateral exercises with Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, and Australia.

According to Chinese state media Global Times, the Chinese military exercise will serve as a response to the recent provocations, demonstrating that China has “hunting rifles ready against the wolves” that hunger for China’s core interests.

French Navy ships Assault helicopter carrier Tonnerre and Surcouf frigate arrive at Kochi port ahead of France-led ‘La Pérouse’ joint exercise with QUAD members, in Kochi on Tuesday. (ANI Photo)

China will hold the military training in the South China Sea from Friday to Tuesday, and other vessels are prohibited from entering the navigation restriction zone, read a notice released by the Maritime Safety Administration on Wednesday.

The notice did not give more details on the exercise, but a Taipei-based news agency reported that the PLA launched anti-ship ballistic missiles in the South China Sea in a similar exercise last year.

In a related development, External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar on Wednesday at the 11th East Asia Summit (EAS) highlighted the growing convergence of approaches on the Indo-Pacific region among different member nations.

Without naming China, the minister stressed that the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea should be fully consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). “Stressed that Code of Conduct on the South China Sea should be fully consistent with UNCLOS 1982. Should not prejudice legitimate rights and interests of nations not a party to discussions,” the minister tweeted.

This comes amid China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea. Beijing continues to claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and has overlapping territorial claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

Jaishankar’s remarks come as a task force of four warships from the Indian Navy’s Eastern Fleet is scheduled to proceed on an over two-month overseas deployment to South East Asia, the South China Sea and Western Pacific, which will include exercises with Quad partners the United States, Japan and Australia.

During the EAS Foreign Ministers Meeting, EAM Jaishankar also supported the ASEAN five-point consensus on Myanmar and welcomed the appointment of Special Envoy.

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