Troops pull back in Gogra sector; India conceded land, says councillor

A controversy erupted soon after media reports on Tuesday quoting defence sources said that Indian and Chinese troops completed disengagement at Patrolling Point (PP) 15 in the Gogra-Hot Springs of eastern Ladakh “in a phased, coordinated, and verified manner”.

A Deccan Herald report quoted a councillor of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Konchok Stanzin, who alleged that India has ended up conceding to the creation of yet another ‘buffer zone’ in its own territory while agreeing with China to withdraw troops from PP 15 on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Buffer zone to India’s disadvantage?

Stanzin told the newspaper that the recent disengagement of troops by the two sides from Gogra-Hotsprings area near the LAC saw India agreeing with China to withdraw of its troops, not only from the face-off point at PP15, but also from PP16, to the Karam Singh Hill. He said that India ended up turning its own territory along its LAC with China into a “buffer zone”, with a moratorium on patrolling.

Also read: India, China to complete disengagement in Gogra-Hotsprings in Ladakh by Sep 12: MEA

Stanzin, elected to LAHDC from Chushul in Ladakh, also expressed apprehension that withdrawal of Indian troops from PP16, where it had maintained a permanent post for decades, could result in turning Krugang Valley, used by local people for grazing cattle for long, into disputed territory between the two countries.

“Very important Kugrang Valley got disputed. Miles of land become a buffer zone from the Indian side. But who cares about local feelings?” Stanzin posted on Twitter in response to a tweet by former BJP member in the Rajya Sabha Subramanian Swamy.

Swamy had tweeted: “Chinese are laughing away on Indian media reports quoting Modi Govt that India and China have vacated to either side of LAC. Truth: China has withdrawn from Indian land and India has withdrawn from Indian land. Thus, China claims: “What mine in mine and what is your is also mine.”

The earlier disengagement of troops in Galwan Valley in June 2020, in northern bank of Pangong Tso in February 2021 and in Gogra Post in August 2021 also saw India agreeing with China for creation of ‘buffer zones’ and moratorium on patrolling, the report added.

Troops pullback

Meanwhile, many media reports quoted defence sources as saying that Indian and Chinese soldiers completed disengagement from PP 15 in the Gogra-Hot Springs area of eastern Ladakh between September 8-12, with the process involving front-line troops moving back to rear locations, dismantling of temporary infrastructure created there and joint verification to assess the full implementation of the disengagement to follow.

This was the fourth round of disengagement between the Indian Army and Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) after the border row erupted in May 2020. However, problems at Depsang in Daulet Beg Oldi sector and the Demchok area are still on the negotiating table.

Also read: China builds new larger bridge on Pangong Lake in Ladakh; India protests

Despite the disengagement at four friction points so far, heavy deployment of troops in Ladakh remains from both sides. The last breakthrough before the PP-15 development had come in August 2021 when the two armies pulled back from PP 17 A in the Gogra sector.

The two armies held eight rounds of talks in 2020, five rounds in 2021, and three rounds of talks so far this year.

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