With tensions mounting along the Line of Actual Control following the Pangong Tso clash and detection of Chinese intrusions at three places in the Galwan river area, Army chief General MM Naravane landed Friday at the XIV Corps headquarters in Leh to review the situation in eastern Ladakh.
The Army chief’s visit to the corps headquarters came a day after the Ministry of External Affairs hit back at Beijing over the LAC developments, saying “it is the Chinese side that has recently undertaken activity hindering India’s normal patrolling patterns” and “we are deeply committed to ensuring India’s sovereignty and security”.
Indian and Chinese troops came to blows on the banks of the Pangong Tso, a lake which is partly under Indian control, on the night of May 5-6. Chinese intrusions, sources said, have been detected at three places in the Galwan area, well inside Indian territory.
There have been five meetings between local military commanders of the two sides so far, but the situation along nearly 80 km of frontage remains unresolved.
Sources said Chinese soldiers have crossed the LAC at three places — at Hot Springs and in two locations 15-20 km to the north-west, Patrolling Point 14 (PP-14) and PP-15.
At each of these places, around 800-1000 Chinese soldiers have crossed over to the Indian side of the LAC, sources said, at distances of around 2-3 km. Tents have been pitched by the Chinese soldiers in the area, along with a fleet of heavy vehicles and monitoring equipment. Chinese helicopter movement close to the LAC has also been monitored by the Indian side.
Sources said Indian soldiers in equal numbers have been deployed in the area, separated by a distance of 300-500 metres from the Chinese – technically, the two sides are not in a faceoff.
Movement of additional troops as part of “creation of reserves” and “contingency planning” have also been initiated by the Army, sources said.
Distance is being maintained by the Indian side to avoid fracas like the one on the night of May 5-6 at Pangong Tso, which led to injuries on both sides, sources said, adding that this should avert any “inadvertent escalation”.
The motives for Chinese incursions into Indian territory are still not clear. One view among official circles is that it is triggered by local factors such as creation of more infrastructure by Indians in areas close to the LAC.
Another view links it to a more assertive China which is intruding into a sector like Hot Springs where the perception of the LAC has not been in dispute.
Most officials agree that the situation at the LAC is “unprecedented” in recent memory, with tensions running very high. They also suggest that a solution to the crisis will have to be found soon since “the change in the status quo by the Chinese is not acceptable”.
Official data show there has been a marked increase in the number of Chinese transgressions along the LAC in Ladakh in the western sector.
The first four months of this year, according to official data, witnessed 170 Chinese transgressions, including 130 in Ladakh. There were only 110 such transgressions in Ladakh during the same period in 2019.
But in 2019, the year when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping met at Bishkek and Mahabalipuram, there were 663 Chinese transgressions, up from 404 in 2018. This included a 75 per cent spike in the western sector and a 55 per cent rise in the eastern sector.
Nearly three-quarters of the transgressions, data since 2015 show, have taken place in the western sector of the LAC.
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