China and India eye gradual pullback in Himalayan standoff

Linda J. Dodson

BEIJING — Chinese and Indian forces look to carry out a phased pullback over the course of weeks from their standoff in the Himalayan region of Ladakh following more than a month of heightened tensions over their de facto border.

Indian media reported the plan Wednesday, citing an Indian government source familiar with the situation. Local reports indicate that both sides have begun pulling troops back in some areas.

China appears keen to resolve the situation and avoid adding a conflict with India to its foreign policy woes. Beijing’s recent security legislation for Hong Kong has raised hackles in U.S. and European capitals, while the coronavirus pandemic has soured views on China more broadly.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Wednesday the two countries “have recently had effective communication and reached agreement on properly handling the situation in the west section of the China-India boundary.”

“At present, the two sides are taking actions in line with the agreement to ameliorate the border situation,” Hua said.

Senior political and military officials from the two countries had agreed on Saturday to “peacefully resolve” the border row, according to a statement from India’s foreign ministry. Military commanders on both sides will meet soon to discuss how to handle the withdrawal, including the timing and scale, Indian media have reported.

The standoff appears to have been sparked by an Indian road construction project opposed by China. Since May 5, both sides have mobilized troops along the demarcation between Chinese- and Indian-controlled territory, known as the Line of Actual Control. Soldiers have skirmished at multiple points in the mountainous area.

Beijing and New Delhi fought a brief but bloody war in 1962 along the Himalayan border. More recently, they engaged in a two-month standoff in 2017 over the Doklam Plateau, which is claimed by China and Bhutan and is strategically important to India.

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