Chinese troops have started withdrawal from the Doklam standoff site even though the process is slow, top Army sources said.
“There is no need to worry for the Doklam area as the Chinese troops have started thinning down and tensions have also subsided. The troops had also exchanged sweets on Diwali,” top Army sources said.
Sources added, “There has been a thinning of Chinese troops in the Doklam area. Many of them had come down for exercises and now, very clearly, some are going back. First, there are fewer tents in the area and also, fewer troops moving around. Of course, there are still a considerable number of PLA troops in the general area with heavy weapons like tanks and artillery, but the process of troop-reduction appears to have begun. This is clear from the latest satellite imagery.”
Government sources refute any talk of the Chinese reinforcing their positions in recent times. The troops that were there are apart from the numbers being pulled out.
As for the Indian Army, the operation alert issued during the crisis is being lifted and deduction from the India side has started in the Ladakh mountains as troops have started coming back. About two brigades had been moved to Ladakh from the plains. They are being moved back. A similar thinning out is being planned for the Sikkim area, much closer to Doklam, which is on the China-Bhutan border. It is easier to do that in Sikkim in comparison with Ladakh as there are roads almost right up to the front.
One reason for the de-escalation is the weather. There is already light snow on the ground and the prospect of a confrontation has come down in the wake of diplomatic negotiations.
As part of the lessons of Doklam, the Army and Indian Air Force are pushing for more airfields in the east Ladakh area. If there are more airstrips apart from the Leh field that is also used by civilian aircraft, it will be easier to supply more troops on the ground as opposed to give them fuel, ammunition and food from the air. Several spots have already been identified including Nyoma and BDO. If the airfields are there, troops can even be moved there quickly if there is a need.