India and China have completed troop disengagement from the Gogra area of eastern Ladakh, after 15 months of a “sensitive face-off”, the Army announced Friday.
The disengagement process, which includes removal of all temporary structures and other allied infrastructure by both sides, and restoration of landform to “pre-stand-off period”, was carried out over two days, that is 4 and 5 August, the Army said in a statement.
“As per the agreement, both sides have ceased forward deployments in this area in a phased, coordinated and verified manner… The troops of both sides are now in their respective permanent bases,” the Army added.
The development comes days after the 12th round of corps-commander-level talks between India and China, which were held on 31 July at the Chushul-Moldo meeting point on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Sources in the defence and security establishment told ThePrint that as part of the disengagement process, which was first initiated in the area in 2020 but not completed by China, a buffer zone has been created. No patrolling will take place in the area in the foreseeable future, by either India or China, they said.
The disengagement, the sources added, involved a “platoon-plus strength” (a platoon roughly comprises 25 soldiers) on both sides.
“The disengagement process was initiated last year too. However, China did not complete the entire process and kept a platoon-plus strength of soldiers, which they have now withdrawn after the fresh agreement at corps commander level,” a source said.
What is a no-patrolling zone?
When two forces disengage from a face-off point where they had been eyeball-to-eyeball or in close proximity to each other, one way to prevent new face-offs is to create a zone in which troops from neither side are allowed for a certain length of time. As the name ‘no-patrolling zone’ suggests, the area becomes a zone where neither side is allowed to patrol.
Between India and China, the idea of the no-patrolling zone can be traced back to the border war of 1962. After China declared a unilateral ceasefire on November 21, 1962, it pulled its troops back 20 km from what it perceived was the location of the LAC on November 7, 1959. China, therefore, created a sort of buffer zone extending from where its forces were to where the LAC was, according to it.
More recently, the concept was used by India in 2013. Chinese troops had pitched tents in an area known as the Bottleneck in the Depsang Plains, and India was negotiating to end the face-off. As part of the understanding to end the Depsang standoff, India temporarily suspended patrolling in an area further south, but within eastern Ladakh, called Chumar. Patrolling was suspended temporarily in 2014 as well, again in Chumar, to resolve another standoff.