By Tsering Dhundup
DHARAMSHALA, July 17: The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) reportedly set up four tents within a designated buffer zone in Chushul, eastern Ladakh on July 11. The incident came to light when local councillor Konchok Stanzin expressed his astonishment and raised objections to the PLA’s actions. This incident coincides with the visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the state of Ladakh, further raising suspicions about China’s intentions.
Prompted by objections from the Indian Army, local villagers reported that three of the tents have been removed, while the dismantling process is underway for the fourth tent.
According to media reports, the incident took place in the Table Top area of Gurung Hills in eastern Ladakh. The buffer zones, including Galwan, the north and south banks of Pangong Tso, PP-17 A, and the recently added PP-15(Gogra-Hotsprings area), were established through several rounds of talks between the Indian and Chinese armies. These buffer zones were created following the violent clashes between Indian soldiers and the Chinese PLA on June 15, 2020, in Galwan Valley, which resulted in the loss of 20 Indian soldiers’ lives and unspecified number of casualty on the Chinese side.
Before April 2020, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the Indian Army regularly patrolled the buffer zones. However, the situation changed when China started amassing troops near the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh, leading to the establishment of buffer zones as a measure to reduce tensions.
The recent violation of the disengagement agreement by the PLA raises concerns about the stability and commitment of the agreement. It emphasizes the necessity for constant vigilance and diplomatic efforts to ensure adherence to the agreements reached between India and China regarding the border dispute in eastern Ladakh.
China has a history of attempting to disrupt the situation in Ladakh during the Dalai Lama’s visits. In 2019, Beijing objected to Tibetans and villagers celebrating the Dalai Lama’s birthday in the Damchok sector near the Line of Actual Control (LAC). At that time, Chinese soldiers crossed the LAC and placed Chinese flags on Indian territory. Attempts were made to intimidate civilians and prevent the celebration of the Dalai Lama’s birthday with aggressive gestures and banners calling for the ban of activities aimed at splitting Tibet.
A similar incident occurred in April 2017 when the Dalai Lama visited Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. The Chinese Foreign Ministry summoned India’s then-ambassador in Beijing, Vijay Gokhale, to lodge a protest, accusing India of disregarding China’s concerns by arranging the visit. Beijing demanded that India cease using the Dalai Lama to undermine China’s interests.
Councillor Konchok Stanzin revealed that the PLA had pitched the tents just below Table Top Mountain in Chushul, an area clearly falling within the buffer zone established as part of the disengagement agreement. Stanzin emphasized the significant violation of the agreement and expressed his concern over the matter.