India and China agree to fast track Himalayan border troop pull back, says New Delhi


New Delhi (Reuters) – Indian and Chinese diplomats agreed on Friday to a fast pull back of troops eyeballing each other across a disputed border in the western Himalayas where 20 Indian soldiers died in a clash last month, the Indian government said.

There were no shots fired during the June 15 fighting in the Galwan Valley of India’s Ladakh region when the Indian soldiers were beaten with rocks and clubs, but it still marked the worst clash in decades between Asia’s nuclear-armed powerhouses.

Since then the two sides have held several rounds of talks to restore calm and reduced the numbers of troops in the valley, while still pouring reinforcements into the wider region.

At a virtual meeting, diplomats from both sides reviewed the halting progress made so far in ending the standoff on the “Line of Actual Control” or the de facto border.

Both sides agreed on “early and complete disengagement” of troops on the control line and de-escalation of border areas to ensure the restoration of peace and smooth relations, India’s foreign ministry said.

The countries’ top military commanders were to meet again soon to “ensure expeditiously complete disengagement”, it added.

There was no immediate readout from the Chinese side.

“Not out of the woods yet”.

The Line of Actual Control was established after a war in 1962, but it is poorly defined and there have been sporadic flare ups over the decades though no cross-border firing.

Indian officials say Chinese troops have intruded onto its side in the remote western region and are concerned Beijing is dragging its feet on full withdrawal.

China says it has not breached the de facto border and has asked India to restrain its frontline troops.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters in Washington that the United States had seen a build-up of forces on the India-China border, estimating that each side had over 10,000 troops in the area.

“We’re still seeing actually troop reinforcements and weapon reinforcements moving towards the border. So by no means are we out of the woods yet,” the official added.

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