The Indian Army on Monday began the process of “disengagement” of its troops at the standoff area in Doklam, with the Chinese side also withdrawing its soldiers, army sources said.

This comes as India and China on Monday agreed to disengage their troops, after a nearly three-month standoff in the Doklam plateau area in Sikkim sector. Sources in India said the troops withdrawal will be from both sides.

The withdrawal of Indian troops from the standoff point started around noon on Monday.

Around 350-400 Indian troops were there at the border point. India had refused to withdraw its soldiers unless there was a simultaneous withdrawal from the Chinese side as well.

The standoff between Indian and Chinese troops at Doklam, at the tri-junction of India-China Bhutan, has been continuing since June 16 when Indian troops stopped a Chinese PLA unit from building a road in the area.

On Monday, a statement from the Ministry of External Affairs said both countries have agreed to “disengage” in Doklam.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs in a statement said: “In recent weeks, India and China have maintained diplomatic communication in respect of the incident at Doklam. During these communications, we were able to express our views and convey our concerns and interests.”

“On this basis, expeditious disengagement of border personnel at face-off site at Doklam has been agreed to, and is on-going,” the statement said.

The decision to disengage their troops comes ahead of a crucial BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit being hosted by China at Xiamen on 3-4 September, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to attend.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that India has withdrawn its troops from Doklam but Chinese troops will “remain in the region” and exercise their “sovereignty over the region”.

Its spokesperson Hua Chunying said that Chinese border troops will “continue to patrol in Donglong”, which India refers to as Doklam, in the Sikkim sector.

“On the afternoon of August 28, the Indian side pulled back all the Indian troops and equipment to the Indian side of the boundary and the Chinese personnel have verified this,” Hua said.

“The Chinese side will continue to exercise its sovereignty and uphold its territorial integrity in accordance with historical conventions,” she added.

Asked if the disengagement was from both sides, Hua repeated the same statement.

However, Indian foreign policy experts pointed out that China did not deny India’s statement that both countries have agreed to “disengage” in Doklam. They said that this was in effect a huge climbdown by China, for the issue of disagreement between the two countries was China building roads in the disputed Doklam region, which would have directly impacted India’s security by bringing India’s Siliguri corridor within China’s artillery range. Experts said that under the “disengagement agreement” India has been able to stop China’s road-building activities in the Doklam region, thus returning to an earlier situation of status quo. The standoff began on 16 June when Indian troops stopped a People’s Liberation Army contingent from building a road in Doklam, which is in the tri-junction of China-Bhutan-India. The Chinese side refused to withdraw, and instead accused India of transgressing into its territory. The Chinese side, especially the state media, since then has been on an offensive, and on occasions issued veiled threats of war.

India has maintained that both sides should withdraw simultaneously for any dialogue on the issue, and asserted that war was not a solution.

Amidst the standoff, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Hamburg on the sidelines of the G20 summit, while National Security Advisor Ajit Doval held talks with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi in Beijing on the sidelines of a BRICS security meet.

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