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India, China withdraw in key Ladakh areas with new buffer zones

New Delhi: China has completed the withdrawal of its troops by 2 km in the contested Hot Springs and Galwan area of eastern Ladakh on Tuesday. The Chinese have also started pulling back in Gogra near Hot Springs. India has also withdrawn an equal distance in all three areas. Buffer zones are being created in the areas where Indian and Chinese soldiers are mutually withdrawing. A future decision on patrolling in the region will be taken after the next round of military talks in less than two weeks from now.
China dismantled its camps at PP 14 or Patrol Point 14 in Galwan and began withdrawing from Sunday. Patrolling Points are the farthest points that the Indian army patrols in Ladakh and these are located virtually on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de-facto border dividing India and China. With the Chinese withdrawal in Galwan, People’s Liberation Army forces are firmly on their side of the LAC, say sources.
Buffer zones created by the mutual withdrawals in Galwan, Hot Springs and Gogra, and Pangong to the south are being monitored electronically through drones and satellites. There is also a hotline between the two sides. There will be no patrolling by the armies of either side within the buffer zone.
Sources said that in the future it may be possible for police forces such as the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Chinese border police personnel to patrol the buffer zones to ward against a potential clash. But this still needs to be finalised.
The two sides have agreed to “completely disengage” from the border flashpoint and ensure “a phased and stepwise de-escalation in the India-China border areas,” the foreign ministry said on Monday.
On Sunday, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke on the phone for two hours. According to an official statement, the two agreed that “it was necessary to ensure at the earliest complete disengagement of the troops along the LAC and de-escalation from India-China border areas for full restoration of peace and tranquility”.
“They reaffirmed that both sides should strictly respect and observe the line of actual control and should not take any unilateral action to alter the status quo and work together to avoid any incident in the future that could disturb peace and tranquility in border areas,” said the government statement. But this part was not included in Beijing’s official note on the conversation.
China said front-line troops are taking “effective measures” and making “progress” to disengage and ease the tensions in the Galwan Valley.
Government sources said that they are “cautiously hopeful” of a Chinese pull-back from all areas by the middle of July, by which time military leaders are expected to hold another round of high-level talks.
China’s aggression at the border in Ladakh is believed to be triggered by India building new roads and other infrastructure in the region.
Given the build-up of infrastructure on the Chinese side, including in areas such Galwan where they have built up roads and broadened the valley, there is a worry that China will be able to surge troops into areas that they have now vacated.

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News Live Odisha

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