India and China have begun "synchronised and organised disengagement" from the north and south banks of Pangong Lake, a Chinese defence ministry spokesperson said Wednesday afternoon.
India has not yet responded to Colonel Wu Qian's statement. However, sources told NDTV the government is not denying the reports from the Chinese defence ministry. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will make a statement in the Rajya Sabha tomorrow on the "present situation in eastern Ladakh".
Raksha Mantri Shri @rajnathsingh will make a statement in Rajya Sabha tomorrow regarding ‘Present Situation in Eastern Ladakh'.— रक्षा मंत्री कार्यालय/ RMO India (@DefenceMinIndia) February 10, 2021
"The Chinese and Indian frontline troops at the southern and northern bank of the Pangong Tso Lake start synchronised and organised disengagement from February 10," Senior Colonel Wu Qian, China's defence spokesperson, said in a written statement.
Colonel Qian said the move was in accordance with the consensus reached after the ninth round of military commander-level talks held on the Chinese side of the Moldo-Chushul border last month.
India had said those talks finished on a "positive, practical and constructive" note, and that both sides had agreed to "push for an early disengagement".
The talks - the ninth round lasted for over 15 hours - have been aimed at defusing tension along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, and finding a solution to the nine-month stand-off.
In November last year senior government sources said a three-phase plan for disengagement had been readied but there was no agreement on implementation. That plan included both sides pulling back armour - tanks and armoured personnel carriers - from close to the LAC.
India-China tensions spiked in May last year after skirmishes in the Pangong Lake region, and worsened after the June 14 clash in Galwan Valley, in which 20 Indian soldiers died for the country.
Two weeks ago the Indian Army confirmed the two sides clashed once more - this time along the LAC in Sikkim. The Army said it was a "minor face-off" with "insignificant and minor injuries" and that tensions were "resolved by local commanders as per established protocols".
In September the two sides fired 100-200 rounds of "warning shots" on the north bank of the lake. Sources said this was after India made key moves to establish a post overlooking Chinese troops.
A week prior Chinese troops approached Indian positions on the southern bank and fired in the air. They were armed with spears and rifles, and allegedly tried to force a fight similar to the one in June.
Currently some 50,000 Indian troops are deployed in a high state of combat readiness in sub-zero conditions in mountainous locations across eastern Ladakh.
China has deployed an equal number of troops, officials have said.
Also in September there was a major build-up of Chinese tanks and infantry in the South Pangong region; sources told NDTV tanks had been detected near Chinese positions in Moldo.
In January Defence Minister Rajnath Singh stressed that India will not reduce the number of its troops unless China initiates the process. Mr Singh, speaking to news channel Times Now, had said: "There is no deadline when it comes to matter like the ongoing standoff. You can't fix a date."