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Expansionist China demanding buffer zone within India-claimed Ladakh territory

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(TibetanReview.net, May22’23) – The Chinese army are already 18km inside India-claimed territory in the Depsang Plains of Ladakh and have been demanding the creation of a 15-20km buffer zone further inside Indian territory as a precondition for agreeing to disengage from the area, reported the telegraphindia.com May 22.

The Chinese made this latest demand during the 18th round of corps commander talks last month, and reiterated it during subsequent military talks at lower levels, the report said, citing an Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) official.

“During negotiations, India rejected the demand and instead agreed to a 3-4km buffer zone, but the Chinese refused to budge,” the official has said.

The widest of the existing buffer zones in eastern Ladakh — which entailed the Chinese stepping back a few kilometres while remaining within India-claimed lines, and the Indians retreating an equal distance — is 10km. Their creation has prompted military veterans to accuse New Delhi of “capitulating” and ceding more territory to the Chinese, the report noted.

“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 has said.

The Depsang Plains remain the only friction point where no disengagement has taken place since the Chinese transgressed India-claimed lines in eastern Ladakh in May 2020, the report noted.

Demilitarized “buffer zones” have so far been established on the Galwan Valley (3km wide), Pangong Lake (10km), Gogra (3.5km) and Hot Springs (4km) as part of the disengagement process, the report cited Indian defence ministry sources as saying.

“The Narendra Modi government has so far denied any Chinese intrusion in Ladakh while at the same time willingly accepting the Chinese army’s terms by retreating from its positions to create buffer zones within Indian territory,” the report quoted a former lieutenant general of the Indian Army as saying.

It also quoted a retired major general as saying: “The government has capitulated and handed the Chinese more territory on a platter by agreeing to the buffer zones; now they want more at the Depsang Plains.”

But India’s defence ministry has said these “buffer zones are temporary and India has not given up its rights on those areas”.

The report noted that a research paper submitted by an IPS officer during the DGPs’ conference in Delhi in January this year had flagged how India had lost access to 26 of its 65 patrolling points (PPs) in eastern Ladakh following the Chinese incursion.

The Depsang Plains — a 972sqkm plateau situated 16,000ft above sea level — lie to the west of Aksai Chin, which has been under illegal occupation by China since 1962, and have the Siachen Glacier on their northwestern edge, the report noted.

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