While Galwan valley has been vacated and a four kilometre buffer zone has been established, which will not be disturbed till the next stage of disengagement, people familiar with the matter said a similar 4-km zone was expected to be completed at Gogra and Hot Springs too.
At Galwan, the Chinese have pulled back entirely from Patrolling Point 14 and are now well within their side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the valley, as visible in the satellite pictures. Temporary structures like tents appear to have been completely removed and heavy vehicles too have retreated.
Patrols will resume at the friction points in the future after current tensions de-escalate and plans are in place for joint verification of the disengagement in the coming days at several spots in eastern Ladakh, according to the people.
“The present restrictions have been mutually agreed to by both sides to avoid any violent incident as tempers are running very high on both sides. After the current process is over, there will be business as usual with patrolling of all points,” said one of the persons, who did not wish to be identified.
After the buffer zone, the next step being considered is the withdrawal of troops that have been built up along the LAC by both sides. As reported by ET, China has brought in troops at more than 15 locations in eastern Ladakh since early May, when tensions first broke out.
Once this is achieved, joint physical verifications of the friction areas will be carried out. “There have been precedents for this and in the past too when such face-offs became serious, both sides nominated observer teams that jointly went to the friction areas,” said the person.
However, the immediate task is to ensure that the buffer zone concept succeeds and no incidents take place. For this to happen, at the local level the buffer zones are being clearly defined to ensure there is no ambiguity. “The armies of both sides need to remain committed to known and defined boundaries till the situation can be dealt with using diplomatic means,” said the person.
The situation at the Finger area along Pangong Tso remains fluid as there has only been a limited thinning of troops by China. The Finger area will be the most difficult to disengage in, given the large-scale infrastructure developed by the Chinese army, including dozens of defensive structures and housing for troops, said people in the know.
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