India thwarts Chinese troop movement near Pangong lake; tension rises on border4 min read . Updated: 31 Aug 2020, 11:21 AM IST
- Chinese troops tried to change status quo on southern bank of Pangong lake on the night intervening 29 and 30 August
- Indian military thwarted the move, according to a statement issued by Indian Army
Fresh tensions surfaced between India and China over the weekend with Chinese troops trying to change the status quo on the southern bank of the Pangong lake. Indian military personnel, though, thwarted the move, the Indian army said on Monday.
The spike in tensions seems to be the most serious since 15 June when 20 Indian army personnel and an unknown number of Chinese troops were killed in a violent clash in Galwan Valley area of Eastern Ladakh. Also worrying was the fact that this was a new area where the Chinese troops tried to enter Indian territory, a move seen as stoking tensions, according to analysts.
Ties between the two countries -- riven by distrust -- have plummeted, with both amassing troops along their common borders in Ladakh. The Indian Army is also maintaining a tight vigil across the entire 3,488 kilometre stretch of the Line of Actual Control border. According to satellite pictures of the China-India border posted on the Internet by Open Source Intelligence, China seems to be building a heliport in close proximity to two new air defence positions covering sensitive stretches of the LAC in Sikkim and along the India-China-Bhutan borders.
Over the weekend, there was no physical clash between the two sides on the southern bank of the Pangong Tso lake. About 25 soldiers of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) tried to enter Indian territory on the banks of the lake in the Chushul area and they were blocked by Indian soldiers, a person familiar with the matter said.
In its version of events, the Indian Army said that late Saturday, PLA soldiers “violated the previous consensus arrived at during military and diplomatic engagements during the ongoing standoff in Eastern Ladakh and carried out provocative military movements to change the status quo." The reference was to consensus reached in a number of military and diplomatic talks to disengage and de-escalate since early May when the first intrusions into Indian territory came to light.
“Indian troops pre-empted this PLA activity on the southern bank of Pangong Tso Lake, undertook measures to strengthen our positions and thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change facts on ground," the statement said.
“The Indian Army is committed to maintaining peace and tranquility through dialogue, but is also equally determined to protect its territorial integrity. A Brigade Commander level Flag Meeting is in progress at Chushul to resolve the issues," the statement added.
Soon after, the Indian Army moved some additional troops to the area given that some 100 Chinese soldiers were seen on their side of the LAC, the person cited above said.
The new tensions come as Indian foreign and defence ministers were to travel to Russia for meetings of the China-Russia dominated Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) with speculation rife over whether the two ministers would meet their Chinese counterparts.
Previous interventions by Foreign Minister Jaishankar and India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval have not yielded results. Both of them had spoken to Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi on separate occasions. According to India, China has intruded into at least four areas along the LAC in Ladakh since May. These include the Finger Area of Pangong Tso lake along the northern bank, and along Patrolling points 14,15 and 17A.
While troops of both sides have pulled back from PP14 and PP 15 after several rounds of diplomatic and military talks, Chinese troops have refused to climb down from the heights they are occupying at Finger 4. Fingers are mountain spurs jutting into the lake. While India used to hold till Finger 4 and patrol up to Finger 8, Chinese troops held positions till Finger 8 and patrolled up to Finger 4. Since May, they are stationed at Finger 4.
On its part, China says that frontline troops of China and India have "completed" disengagement at most locations on their border with the situation on the ground easing.
India has repeatedly said peace and tranquility along the border was linked to the overall state of bilateral ties with China. On its part, Beijing says that frontline troops of China and India have "completed" disengagement at most locations on their border with the situation on the ground easing.
“The South Bank has been physically held by us for a long time. There was never any dispute there. On the northern side, we used to patrol as did they. But on the southern side there was no doubt," said Deepender Singh Hooda, former northern army commander. That the Chinese chose to intrude on the southern bank knowing full well that it could turn into a clash, showed the move up as a “very provocative," said Hooda. Trying to open a new front also showed that the Chinese were not going to adhere to India’s demand of restoration of status quo ante – i.e. that Chinese troops move back to positions they held in May, Hooda added.