According to a research document written by a senior police officer, India has lost its presence in 26 of the 65 Patrolling Points (PP) in Eastern Ladakh that were patrolled routinely by the Indian Security Troops due to “restrictive or no patrolling” by the forces.
The document was drafted by the Superintendent of Police and senior IPS officer P D Nitya (Leh-Ladakh). According to Nitya, the Chinese have a major economic and strategic need in the eastern border sector, and they are aggressively building up their army to dominate the unfenced areas denoted by the PPs on the Indian side in order to further assert their dominance over the area. The document was presented at the annual All-India Conference of Director Generals/Inspector Generals of Police in Delhi last week.
“There are currently 65 PPs between Karakoram Pass and Chumur that must be monitored routinely by the ISFs. Due to restricted or nonexistent ISF patrols, our presence is lost in 26 of 65 PPs, namely PPs 5–17, 24-32, 37, 51, 52, and 62. Later on, China forces us to acknowledge the existence of Chinese military in these areas, which have been devoid of ISFs and civilians for an extended period of time. This results in a transfer of the border under the authority of ISFs to the Indian side and the creation of a “buffer zone” in all such pockets, which ultimately leads to India losing control of these regions. This strategy of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to acquire land inch by inch is referred to as “Salami slicing,” according to the study.
“The PLO has taken advantage of the buffer zones in the de-escalation discussions by installing their most advanced cameras on the highest heights and monitoring the movement of our forces. This strange phenomenon may be observed at Black top, Helmet top, Demchok, Kakjung, Gogra hills in Hot springs, and Depsang plains near Chip Chap river, according to the research.
“With the ‘Salami Slicing’ tactic, they protest our movement even in the buffer zone, claiming it is ‘their’ area of operation, and then want us to retreat to establish further ‘buffer’ zones. This occurred with Y nallah at Galwan, where we were obliged to return to Camp-1 without commanding the higher posts overseeing Y nallah; at Chushul, the BPM hut near the airstrip has become the de-facto LAC, and Nilung Nallah at Demchok has been confined,” the report continued.
The seminar included numerous facets of law enforcement and national security, such as counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and cybersecurity. The three-day meeting included, among others, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, according to officials.
According to the report, the extremely harsh climate, difficult terrain, and remoteness of the area have a negative impact on the morale and motivation of soldiers and officers on the ground, reminding them to begin a reverse countdown of their deployment time; each unit desires to complete their mission and return to the plains.
“Over a longer period of time, they will not see the value of defending empty acres of land when there is no people and no economic activity, thus it is our responsibility to maintain their motivation and morale. During a conversation with a senior officer whose unit is located in the advanced region, he stated, “If by retiring 400 metres we can buy four years of peace with the PLA, then it’s worth it.”
According to the report, the Indian Army has placed several limitations on the movement of people and grazers near the front regions on the Indian side because they do not want to anger the PLA by giving them the opportunity to file concerns on the disputed territories.
“Until September 2021, senior officers of the district administration and security forces could easily patrol up to Karakoram Pass (35 kilometres from DBO) in the DBO sector; however, restrictions in the form of check posts were placed by the Indian Army in December 2021 at DBO itself to stop any such movement towards Karakoram Pass, as the PLA had installed cameras and would immediately raise objections on the movement from the Indian side if not informed beforehand. This limiting approach has impacted our assertiveness, and locations that were easily accessible from our side have become informal “buffer zones,” according to the report.
“Recently, the disengagement agreement reached by ISFs at PP 15,16 resulted in the loss of pasture lands in the Gogra hills and the north bank, Kakjungareas. This has resulted in the loss of livelihood and the alteration of lifestyle patterns in border communities, which has led to migration over the years. The Rebos of Chumur cannot graze beyond Nepali Basti, thus they clash with the Rebos of the Korzok region, who refuse to allow them in their grazing regions, as a result of shrinking grazing areas. These concerns also negatively impact civil-military relations, according to the research.
Nitya continued by adding that, given the domestic pressures of the CPC (Covid-19, protests, etc.) in China and their economic interests in the region, the PLA would continue to build up its military infrastructure, and skirmishes, which may or may not have a pattern, would increase in frequency.
“We should be prepared to oppose their “inch-by-inch capture” tactic with our no-retreat plan. This is also applicable to the buffer zones, which have become PLA patrolling regions informally over the years and where they have staked their claims. She stated in the report that a multi-pronged approach, including rural development, tourism attraction, infrastructure development, and model border villages, is required to develop the border regions while taking into account the concerns of the local population and economic interests.
“Rather than thinking in offensive and defensive terms, LAC requires a ‘positive’ strategy that gives equal weight to civilian and military concerns.”