Maxar WorldView-3 satellite image shows close up view of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) border and patrol point 14 in the eastern Ladakh sector of Galwan Valley (Reuters)
NEW DELHI: The creation of ‘buffer zones’ at the two frictions points in the larger Gogra-Hot Springs area is likely to be completed in the next couple of days as part of the ongoing Phase-I of the stepwise de-escalation plan finalised by the Indian and Chinese corps commanders on June 30.
The so-called buffer zone with no military presence at ‘Patrolling Point-14’ (PP-14) in the Galwan Valley region, the site of the bloody clashes on June 15, had already been set up, with the rival troops pulling back 1.5 km each, as was reported by TOI on Tuesday.
One of the major aims behind the intrusion of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into the PP-14 area was to threaten the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie road, which India completed last year.
The buffer zones are to avoid confrontations during the disengagement process and once this is over, Indian troops will resume their regular patrols.
“PLA troops have now gone back to their side of the LAC after vacating the area near PP-14. The pullback includes dismantling of structures erected in recent weeks,” a source said. Similarly, the buffer zone at PP-15 should be in place by Wednesday, while the one at PP-17A (Gogra) will take a day or two more. “The PLA has also taken down some tents and slightly reduced its troops in the Finger-4 area of Pangong Tso,” he added.
Officials also took pains on Tuesday to stress that the buffer zones were a “mutual temporary arrangement” to ensure there were “no inadvertent clashes” between the rival troops during the disengagement process.
“Local Indian and Chinese commanders are in constant touch. There will be no patrols during the month-long stabilisation period after the buffer zones are created at the friction points. But once the disengagement is complete, we will resume our patrols to our perceived LAC, including PP-14. We have not relinquished our right to patrol till there,” an official said.
The next round of disengagement will begin after both sides verify Phase-I of the plan, through physical monitoring on the ground as well as through drones and satellites, and sort out any lingering issues to resolve the trust deficit between them. The fourth round of talks is likely to be held after a couple of weeks.