Mistrust as only one retreat step okayed

No limit for 2nd, 3rd pullback stages

Mistrust as only one retreat step okayed

Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 7

A 3-km buffer zone between troops of India and China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh has raised fresh questions even as it is being implemented as a temporary measure.

Buffer zone dynamics

  • A 3-km buffer zone (1.5 km by each side) is being worked out along the LAC in Galwan, Hot Springs and Pangong Tso

  • For now, no patrolling will be carried out by either army in the buffer zone

  • Patrolling will be allowed to both sides after the 3-step disengagement process is complete, which may take months

A buffer zone of 1.5 km on each side bars patrolling by troops, meaning the Indian Army for now will not patrol the areas along the LAC which it once did. According to the agreement, patrolling will be allowed only when the entire three-step disengagement process is completed, and that might take many months. By then, winter will set in and snow will make it impossible to patrol some of the routes like Patrolling Point (PP)-14, PP-15 and PP-17A.

Mistrust continues to persist as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China, at successive meetings conducted by Lt General-level commanders, has agreed to only the first step of pulling back troops from the friction areas along the LAC. The first step will be reviewed after two weeks. The PLA is yet to agree to a timeline for the second step, which includes pulling back the war-like stores — long-range guns, rockets, tanks — from the LAC. For that another round of meetings is to be conducted, meaning as of now there is no deadline for the second and third steps of the disengagement process.

Some of the disputes at Galwan and the Gogra-Hot Springs area are due to fresh claims being made by China. Earlier, there was no dispute about the LAC alignment in Galwan, as India “accepted” the Chinese claim line proposed in 1960 by its premier Zhou Enlai. China’s claim in June on the entire Galwan valley has been debunked by India. The LAC alignment at Gogra- Hot Springs is disputed and India does not accept China’s claims. At Pangong Tso, China is exercising claim over Finger-4, while India claims several kilometres east of it till Finger- 8. The LAC was drawn at Finger-8 as per China’s own claim in 1960.

An official said an ideal situation would be to have a buffer zone as per the April 2020 position. Another official recalled that the 2014 standoff at Chumur in south-eastern Ladakh had ended with a no-patrolling zone. It was created temporarily for a few weeks to reduce friction.

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