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Friday, July 10, 2020

Closer to strategic DBO, China opens new front at Depsang

Around 30 km south-east from the important airstrip of Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), the Chinese army has moved and deployed in large numbers up to a place called Y-junction or Bottleneck on the Depsang plains.

Written by Sushant Singh | New Delhi | Updated: June 25, 2020 1:00:41 pm
india china tension, galwan faceoff india china, india china border row, Pangong Tso, line of actual control, Depsang plains, An Indian army convoy moves on the Srinagar- Ladakh highway at Gagangeer, northeast of Srinagar (AP)

As India and China grapple with rising tensions in the Galwan Valley, Hot Springs and Pangong Tso on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the Chinese army has crossed the border in another strategic area to the north, the Depsang plains. This intrusion is seen as another attempt by the Chinese to shift the LAC further west on the disputed boundary.

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Around 30 km south-east from the important airstrip of Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), the Chinese army has moved and deployed in large numbers up to a place called Y-junction or Bottleneck on the Depsang plains. Sources said the Chinese deployments include troops, heavy vehicles, specialist military equipment.

Bottleneck, which derives its name from a rocky outcrop that prevents vehicular movement across the Depsang plains, is the place at which the Chinese had pitched tents after an ingress in April 2013. The standoff between the soldiers on both sides had then lasted three weeks and the status quo ante was restored after diplomatic talks.

Read | Diplomats build on India-China military talks: Need to implement understanding on disengagement

Bottleneck is around 18 km on the Indian side of the LAC, even though the Chinese claim line lies another five kilometres further west. This location is seven kilometres to the north-east of Burtse, a Ladakhi town which falls on the 255-km Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) road and has an Indian Army post.

When contacted, the Army’s media wing declined to comment on the matter, with an officer telling The Indian Express that “the report can neither be confirmed nor denied”.

Bottleneck is known as Y-junction because the track coming from Burtse forks into two tracks, one going northwards along the Raki Nala to Patrolling Point-10 (PP-10) and the other south-eastward towards PP-13. These two tracks are followed by Indian patrols on foot up to PP-10, PP-11, PP-11A, PP-12 and PP-13.

Also Read | Why India claims Galwan belongs to them

Those dealing with the situation contend that if China is able to link up from PP-10 to PP-13 via Bottleneck, it could easily shift the LAC further west of the present Indian Limit of Patrolling (LoP). This would deny India access to a significant part of the LAC close to the DBO airfield and bring the Chinese closer to the strategic DSDBO road.

All the patrolling points in this area – PP-10, PP-11, PP-11A, PP-12 and PP-13 – fall on the LoP, which is marked a few kilometres to the west of the LAC on Indian maps. This 20-km frontage is the only portion on the border where the LoP falls short of LAC. It has been done due to historical reasons, and the LoP has been approved by the China Study Group.

Satellite photos show how the situation changed along the LAC 

After the 2013 standoff was resolved, India had created a new patrol base at bottleneck, with a kind of permanent patrol deployed there, to observe and stop any Chinese patrols from moving any further. But a Chinese patrol had still managed to get through to a place around 1.5 km short of Burtse in September 2015.

As reported earlier, there have been a large number of transgressions by Chinese patrols in the area which have been recorded by the Indian side. There were 157 transgressions in 2019, up from 83 in 2018 and 75 in 2017.

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