New Delhi: Amid the India-China stand-off, the defence and security establishment here is considering a more prominent role for the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) in LAC management with the Army then being in charge of border defence.
According to sources, this idea is being discussed at various levels in the establishment. If cleared it would mean that the Army will be away from the grey zone areas of the LAC, especially since both sides are creating buffer zones in Ladakh near the LAC.
The grey zones refer to areas where the forces from both India and China patrol and come face to face. Currently, the Army and ITBP jointly patrol the grey zones.
Under discussion also is the possibility that on the Chinese side, it would be the Border Defence Regiment (BDR) manning these grey areas, and not the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA). This, if approved, will be taken to the Chinese for further discussion to ensure peace and tranquility along the LAC.
“China is indulging in salami-slicing. It takes four steps forward and two behind to give an illusion of being accommodating. There is a need to clearly demarcate the LAC and the grey zones,” said a source familiar with the matter.
“The grey zone should ideally be handled by the border forces of the two countries. The agreements on patrol protocols should be followed there,” said the source.
If the idea finds acceptance, the Army would be deeper in areas that the country clearly controls, said the sources.
We are deeply grateful to our readers & viewers for their time, trust and subscriptions.
Quality journalism is expensive and needs readers to pay for it. Your support will define our work and ThePrint’s future.
“The protocols won’t be applicable in this area. If anyone tries to come in there, they would be treated as per the Standard Operating Procedures of border defence,” the source quoted above said.
The idea has gathered some steam, especially after the 15-16 June Galwan clash where the Army lost 20 soldiers.
“The Army can be given a straight order to capture the grey zones and they will fight for it with their life. But then if it’s decided that such zones will exist till both sides work out border issues, then the ITBP should be given the role of border management,” said a second source.
Following the initiation of disengagement process in Ladakh, China has moved back by about 1.5-2 km in various locations, while the pullback by India will be a “little less” since Indians were anyway in their own territory.
However, both sides have agreed to what is being described as a “buffer zone”, which would be an area where neither side carries out any construction or patrolling activity and would differ from location to location.
It will take time before India resumes its normal patrols up to patrol point (PP) 14 in Galwan Valley, and PP 15, 17 and 17A in the Hot Spring area.
All these posts fall in what has been described as a “grey area”, which both sides claim but have no permanent posts or structures in. Such grey zones are almost all along the LAC.
No specific time has been agreed upon regarding how long the buffer zone will exist, the sources added, saying it is a confidence-building measure for restoration of status quo as of early April.
‘Army men are taught to defend and attack’
A third source said the two sides will eventually “have to settle the border or have at least some kind of understanding about the LAC”.
“Army men are taught to defend and attack. A soldier who gets posted to LAC suddenly finds himself doing the opposite of what he has been taught — no use of firearms, banner drills among others,” the source said.
In September last year, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, who was then the Army chief, had said that officers forget that things being done at the Line of Control was for a different purpose and the deployment at LAC has a different purpose.
Rawat had then argued for creating reserves and using technology to monitor the LAC.
He had also stressed the need to increase capability against China saying that unlike Pakistan, a possible future war with China will be long-drawn, instead of a sustained, intense operation.
News media is in a crisis & only you can fix it
You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.
You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.
We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And we aren’t even three yet.
At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly and on time even in this difficult period. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is. Our stellar coronavirus coverage is a good example. You can check some of it here.
This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it. Because the advertising market is broken too.
If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous, and questioning journalism, please click on the link below. Your support will define our journalism, and ThePrint’s future. It will take just a few seconds of your time.