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Buffer zone demand escalates China-India tension

In a move that has elevated ongoing tensions, China is advocating for the establishment of a buffer zone within territories India claims on the Depsang Plains, a strategic area in the northernmost part of India’s Ladakh region.

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The controversial proposal was reportedly introduced during the 12th round of high-level military talks between the two nations, aimed at resolving the protracted border dispute. The Depsang Plains have been a friction point, as they offer a critical access route to the Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), India’s highest airstrip and a significant forward post close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de facto boundary.

In what is seen as an attempt to alter the status quo, China’s demand for a buffer zone implies the withdrawal of Indian forces from the territories they presently control. Analysts argue this could compromise India’s strategic and military advantage in the region. It is worth noting that the Chinese military has already made incursions into the Depsang area in recent years, leading to several stand-offs.

This development comes amidst a backdrop of intermittent diplomatic and military exchanges intended to diffuse border tensions that erupted following a deadly clash in Galwan Valley in June 2020. While the two sides have achieved disengagement in other contested areas like Pangong Tso, the Depsang issue remains unresolved.

India’s position has been consistent, with the country maintaining that both nations must adhere to existing bilateral agreements and protocols and respect the LAC’s sanctity. To India, the recent proposal is perceived as China attempting to negotiate new terms rather than seeking a genuine resolution.

The demand for the buffer zone’s establishment adds another complex layer to the negotiations and makes evident the challenging road ahead. Both nations will need to muster strategic patience and diplomacy to arrive at a peaceful resolution of the current border issues.

It remains to be seen how this will affect the already strained India-China relationship and what ramifications this proposal might have on future negotiations.

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