(Adds dropped words in lead)
NEW DELHI May 6 India and China have ended a
three-week standoff on a windswept Himalayan plateau where they
fought a war 50 years ago by agreeing to pull forces back to
positions held before the confrontation, India's foreign
ministry said on Monday.
The two countries packed up tents and left the disputed
patch on the 5,000-metre-high (16,000-foot) Depsang Plain late
on Sunday. But it had not been clear how far they had withdrawn.
Neither side has given details of the terms of the deal.
India says up to 50 Chinese soldiers intruded into its
territory on the western rim of the Himalayas on April 15. Some
officials and experts believe the incursion signalled Chinese
concern about increased Indian military activity in the area.
Delhi had said the soldiers were 19 km (12 miles) beyond the
point it understands to be the border with China in the Ladakh
region of Kashmir, a vaguely defined de facto line called the
Line of Actual Control, which neither side agrees on.
"The governments of India and China have agreed to restore
status quo ante along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the
Western Sector of the India-China boundary as it existed prior
to 15 April, 2013." India's foreign ministry spokesman Syed
Akbaruddin said in a statement.
He did not elaborate or say whether China's soldiers had
already retreated the agreed distance, only saying that "flag
meetings" between border commanders had been held "to work out
the modalities and to confirm the arrangements".
On Sunday, an army officer from India's Northern Command
told Reuters Indian troops had initially moved back 1 km, but
that he did not know how far the Chinese had moved.
China's foreign ministry on Monday stopped short of saying
the standoff had been resolved, but said the two countries had
treated the situation from the perspective of their wider
bilateral relations, which include important trade ties.
"Currently, based on my understanding, the friendly
consultations between the relevant departments from both
countries achieved positive progress," spokeswoman Hua Chunying
told reporters at a daily press briefing.
Some experts and Indian officials say tensions are likely to
persist as the area is highly strategic and abuts the Karakoram
Highway joining Pakistan to China, which Beijing hopes to
develop into a high-traffic trade route linking it to the
Arabian Sea port of Gawadar.
Indian media, which had criticised the government's handling
of the standoff, on Monday speculated that Delhi had agreed to
Chinese demands that it dismantle some infrastructure in another
disputed sector in order to defuse the standoff.
Akbaruddin said he could not give details of the deal.
Throughout the crisis, China denied it had crossed into
Indian territory. Its soldiers displayed bright orange banners
at the site which warned India's troops that they were in fact
in Chinese territory, photos leaked by the Indian army showed.
The tensions had threatened to overshadow a visit by the
Indian foreign minister to Beijing on May 9. China's Premier Li
Keqiang is expected to visit India later this month.
(Reporting By Frank Jack Daniel in NEW DELHI and Michael
Martina in BEIJING; Editing by Ron Popeski)