New Delhi: In the strategically significant area of Depsang plains in Ladakh, China’s People’s Liberation Army has demanded the creation of a 15-20km buffer zone or no patrol zone inside India-claimed lines as a precondition for disengagement, Kolkata-based The Telegraph reports, citing an official from the intelligence wing of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).
The ITBP official told the newspaper that the Chinese side made the latest demand during the 18th round of corps commander talks last month and reiterated it during subsequent military talks at lower levels.
“The Chinese want a buffer zone with a width of 15-20km inside Indian territory as part of the disengagement process from the Depsang Plains. During negotiations, India rejected the demand and instead agreed to a 3-4km buffer zone, but the Chinese refused to budge,” the official was quoted as saying.
The biggest buffer zone created during disengagement in various other areas on the LAC is of 10-km length on the north bank of Pangong lake, between Finger 4 and Finger 8. Many military veterans have alleged that these buffer zones are mostly on the Indian side and work to India’s detriment but there has been no official response from the Modi government.
“The Chinese army is already entrenched 18km inside India-claimed lines and now wants a buffer zone of another 15-20km. It’s apparent that they are working aggressively to establish a revised status quo along the Line of Actual Control in the region,” the official said.
Depsang plains in the DBO sector is one of the areas where no disengagement has taken place between the two sides, despite numerous rounds of talks between military commanders at various levels. For more than three years, PLA has blocked the Indian patrols at Bottleneck or Y-junction to deny them access to five patrolling points in the area – PP9, PP10, PP11, PP12 and PP13.
A research paper submitted by the Leh SP during the DGPs’ conference in Delhi in January this year had highlighted that India had lost access to 26 of its 65 patrolling points (PPs) in eastern Ladakh following the Chinese incursion in 2020.
In late April, after meeting Rajnath Singh in Delhi, China’s Defence Minister General Li Shangfu had said that the border situation was “generally stable” and that both sides had maintained communication through military and diplomatic channels. This was also how China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Qin Gang termed the border situation on May 4 in his meeting with external affairs minister S. Jaishankar, adding that the two countries had to “draw lessons from history and steer bilateral relations from a strategic and long-term perspective”.
In an interview to Nikkei Asia before his visit to Japan, PM Narendra Modi had argued that “peace and tranquility in the border areas are essential for normal bilateral ties with China”. But he did not refer to territorial integrity or Chinese aggression in any manner.