The Congress on Monday said that the Indian government must stand firm against China, after a news report said that Beijing has demanded a buffer zone of 15 kilometres to 20 kilometres inside territory claimed by India in the strategically crucial Depsang Plains in eastern Ladakh.

China has made the demand as part of its conditions for disengaging its troops from the area, The Telegraph reported on Monday, citing an unidentified official of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police.

“During negotiations, India rejected the demand and instead agreed to a three-four kilometres buffer zone, but the Chinese refused to budge,” the official told The Telegraph.

Buffer zones are neutral areas that two militaries agree upon not to patrol. The Indian and Chinese armies have reached consensus on the stretch of buffer zones at other friction points along the Line of Actual Control such as Galwan Valley, Pangong Lake, Gogra and Hot Springs.

On Monday, Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh said that the development was worrisome.

“Now we learn that, far from withdrawing, the Chinese are demanding a ‘buffer zone’ 15-20 km further inside Indian territory,” he said in a statement. “This after having already intruded 18 km past our rightful border.”

Ramesh also said that India was paying a “heavy price” for Prime Minister Narendra Modi giving a “clean chit” to China following the clash between troops of the two countries in Galwan Valley in June 2020.

Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the clash in eastern Ladakh, which sparked the border standoff between the two countries. China had put the number of casualties on its side at four.

At an all-party meeting after the clash, Modi had claimed that Chinese troops did not enter India’s territory and no Indian military posts had been taken over.

Since then, the Indian and Chinese armies have held 18 rounds of military talks on resolving the border row.

On Tuesday, Congress MP Manish Tewari also expressed concerns over the developments reported by The Telegraph.

“How many buffer zones has India conceded to China after May 2020?” he asked on Twitter. “Are all those buffer zones on Indian side of LAC? How much territory have we lost as a consequence of Chinese salami slicing? Has India’s sovereignty been compromised beyond redemption?”

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