New Delhi: There has been some relief for the government on the India-China border. The Chinese and Indian armies have withdrawn simultaneously from face-off point at the Daulat Beg Oldi sector in Ladakh.
Sources in the Ministry of External Affairs say there were no talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese leaders and the agreement was reached at a diplomatic level. The procedure of withdrawal of troops of both countries was completed on Sunday evening, about 3 weeks after the Chinese intrusion. The modalities for withdrawal though will be figured out at the flag meeting to be held soon.
Chinese soldiers had pitched their tents in the DBO area since April 15, 2013 and had refused to vacate the positions in the failed flag meetings held between the two sides to resolve the issue. A battalion of Chinese troops estimate at about 50 and accompanied by vehicles and dogs had intruded 19 km inside the Indian territory across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in DBO sector and set up five tents.
The Indian troops had also established tented posts facing the Chinese forces at a distance of 300 metres. The troops of the two sides held four flag meetings, the last one being on Saturday. However, there was no positive outcome from these meetings, which went hand-in-hand with high level diplomatic efforts to break the impasse.
Indian and Chinese commanders at the local level shook hands before withdrawing, the sources said. However, it was not clear whether the Chinese would withdraw all the way back across the LAC to the position that obtained on April 15 as was demanded by India which pressed for restoration of status quo ante.
The face off in Ladakh had cast a shadow over the visit of External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to China on May 9 to prepare the ground for the new Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang's visit to India from May 20. Khurshid had told reporters on his way to Iran on May 3 that the progress in dialogue to end the stand off in Ladakh was not satisfactory.
India would have liked a "much better response" from China, he had said and emphasised that it wanted reversal of the "adverse incident" in Ladakh and return to the status quo in Depsang Valley where the Chinese troops have intruded.
The Chinese side blamed Indian construction of infrastructure including bunkers and air-fields for provoking the situation but Defence Minister AK Antony took a tough stand saying it was not created by India and the country would take all possible actions to safeguard its interests.
China had, meanwhile, maintained that if India dismantles its infrastructure there and then, it may consider India's requests.
(With additional information from PTI)