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Friday, August 14, 2020

Military Digest| Eastern Ladakh Sitrep: The ‘Bottleneck’ in Indo-China talks

Some 45,000 Chinese troops are either still holding on to our soil, deployed in forward positions against us or held in reserve in the Aksai Chin area. There has been no pullback of tanks, infantry combat vehicles, medium artillery, air defence systems or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles both combat and surveillance.

Written by Mandeep Singh Bajwa | Published: August 2, 2020 8:39:14 am
India China talks, India China border dispute, India China LAC dispute, Galwan valley clashes, Galwan faceoff, India news, Indian Express A file photo of Indian and Chinese personnel on the LAC. (ANI/File)

The Chinese have not withdrawn, they are not retreating in a hurry. Tensions simmers below the surface. On the Indian side there is a mirror deployment of forces. Any further advance has been blocked. no more nibbling away at our territory, no more salami-slicing. But the problem is that the Chinese are still sitting in our land with seemingly every intention of making the occupation permanent.

What is the status of intrusions and withdrawals at the moment? As in July 26, in Galwan (encompassing Patrolling Point 14) the Chinese have more or less withdrawn. Their intrusion had been to the depth of 1 km here. In Hot Springs (Patrolling Points 15, 16 and 17) the intrusion was of an order of 3 km from which there has been partial withdrawal. The same goes for the area around the Pangong Tso including the Fingers Area. The PLA has affected only a partial disengagement here. Initially they had intruded nearly 10 km. In the earlier hotspot of Demchok-Fukche towards the southern end of the LAC in Ladakh this time around there has been no intrusion. Chinese goals have changed it seems.

Military Digest | Detailed Order of Battle: Chinese Forces in Eastern Ladakh

It is the Depsang Plains where the deepest intrusion was made by the Chinese Army – 16-18 kms. Here they have not withdrawn an inch and are standing firm in negotiations. Nothing moves them. The deepest point of intrusion is in the area known as the Bottleneck. While Indian troops hold the Bottleneck itself, they’re prevented from patrolling along the LAC. Chinese troops are thereby denying India access to five of its Patrolling Points: PP-10, PP-11, PP-11A, PP-12 and PP-13. These PPs lie on an arc of around 20 km from Raki Nala to Jiwan Nala, on a line marked as the Line of Patrolling, a few km to the west of the LAC.

The new reality should dawn on us now. Some 45,000 Chinese troops are either still holding on to our soil, deployed in forward positions against us or held in reserve in the Aksai Chin area. There has been no pullback of tanks, infantry combat vehicles, medium artillery, air defence systems or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles both combat and surveillance.

Estimates are that some 600 square km of Indian territory are currently under Chinese occupation. Their attitude and actions conform to a pattern. What seem to be their intentions? Undoubtedly to add depth to their vital National Highway 219. There are other geo-strategic goals discussing which will have to wait for another day. What is clear is that the Chinese have hunkered down. We have no option but to use a large number of reinforcing formations to block their intrusions and threaten their troops through a deliberate offensive of our own. In the meanwhile, the costs of enhanced logistics for nearly 50,000 troops through the winter months will be prohibitive.

Detailed Order of Battle: Western Theatre Command, PLA

In my last dispatch, I had written about the buildup by the Western Theatre Command (WTC) of PLA that covers the entire boundary with India from the northern tip of the Siachen Glacier to the trijunction of Indian, China and Myanmar at Diphu Pass in Arunachal Pradesh. Here is a look at their detailed battle order.

Area of responsibility of the PLA’s Western Theatre Command

Theatre Command HQ: Chengdu

Ground Forces, HQ: Lanzhou, Gansu

This reorganized order of battle and organisation came about in 2017. Earlier one of the existing Group Armies was disbanded and the remaining two renumbered.

1. Formations/Units Directly Under the Theatre Command HQ

1.1 1st Technical Reconnaissance Bureau, Chengdu, Sichuan (responsible for Sigint (signals intelligence), Elint (electronic intelligence), CNO (computer network operations), administers Information Warfare Militias (hackers) and keeps the Theatre commander and his HQ informed of enemy intentions and movements.

1.2 Unidentified Artillery Brigade, Urumqi, Xinjiang

1.3 Unidentified Army Aviation Brigade. Korla, Xinjiang

2. Tibet Military District, Lhasa, Tibet

2.1 52nd Mountain Infantry Brigades, Nyingchi, Tibet

2.2 53rd Mountain Infantry Brigade, Linzhi, Tibet

2.3 54th Mechanized Infantry Brigade, Lhasa

2.4 Unidentified Special Operations Brigade, Lhasa

2.5 308th Artillery Brigade, Lhasa

2.6 651st Anti-Aircraft Artillery Brigade, Lhasa

2.7 Unidentified Army Aviation Brigade

2.8 15th Engineer and Chemical Defence Regiment

2.8 Unidentified Signal Regiment

2.9 Unidentified Electronic Warfare Regiment

3. Xinjiang Military District, (Urumqi, Xinjiang)

3.1 4th Motorised Infantry Division, Aksu, Xinjiang – currently operationally deployed in Galwan Valley/Hot Springs/Pangong Tso

3,2 6th Mechanised Infantry Division, Hetian, Xinjiang – currently operationally deployed in Depsang Plains

3.3 8th Motorised Infantry Division, Tacheng, Xinjiang – reserve for Aksai Chin

3.4 11th Motorised Infantry Division, Urumqi, Xinjiang – reserve for Aksai Chin, currently deployed forward from its peace-time location

3.5 Unidentified Special Operations Brigade, Kashgar, Xinjiang

3.6 3rd Army Aviation Brigade

3.7 2nd Artillery Brigade, Urumqi, Xinjiang

3.8 Unidentified Air Defence Brigade, Urumqi, Xinjiang

3.9 9th Engineer Regiment

3.10 Unidentified Signal Regiment

3.11 Unidentified Electronic Warfare Regiment

3.12 31st Chemical Defence Regiment

4. 77th Group Army, HQ: Chongqing

4.1 Three combined arms brigades located in Chonqing, Sichuan

4.2 Unidentified Special Operations Brigade, Sichuan

4.3 Unidentified Artillery Brigade, Chongzhou, Sichuan

4.4 Unidentified Anti-Aircraft Artillery Brigade, Mianyang, Sichuan

4.5 2nd Army Aviation Brigade, Sichuan

4.6 Unidentified Engineer Regiment

4.7 Unidentified Signal Regiment

4.8 Unidentified Electronic Warfare Regiment

5. 76th Group Army, HQ: Xining, Qinghai

5.1 Three combined arms brigades located in Qinghai, Ningxia and Gansu

5.2 Unidentified Special Operations Brigade

5.3 13th Army Aviation Brigade

5.4 Unidentified Artillery Brigade

5.5 Unidentified Anti-aircraft Artillery Brigade, Linxia, Gansu

5.6 Unidentified Signal Regiment

5.7 14th Engineer Regiment

5.8 11th Chemical Defence Regiment

5.9 90th Pontoon Bridge Regiment

6. PLA Air Force Formations

6.1 6th Fighter Division, Yinchuan, Ningxia – This consists of a regiment with J-11 Shenyang air-superiority fighters, a regiment with Chengdu J-7 interceptors and a third with Chengdu J-7Es.

6.2 33rd Fighter Division, Dazu, Chongqing

6.3 37th Fighter Division, Urumqi, Xinjiang

6.4 36th Bomber Division, Lintong, Shaanxi

6.5 4th Transport Division, Qionglai, Sichuan

7. PLA Rocket Force

7.1 Base 56, Xining, Qinghai – This controls 3-5 brigades each of several battalions. Its units are equipped with DF-21 (range 1,335 km) and DF-31 (range 4,350 km) missiles

8. Border Defence Regiments

8.1 16 regiments plus a few independent battalions deployed for frontier management. These are posted in penny-packets, lightly armed but on par with regular forces as far as small army, supporting weapons, equipment, signal gear and caliber of officers.

This gives a total of 235,000 combatant personnel most of them located at a considerable distance from the LAC. However, these troops can be reinforced in less than a month by a significantly larger number of formations given the excellent communications infrastructure that exists in Tibet and Xinjiang. The Group Armies in WTC were reformed and reorganized in 2017. Given the totalitarian nature of the Chinese state, their normal paranoia and obsessive secrecy it has not been possible to identify beyond reasonable doubt the new combined arms brigades formed within these Group Armies (equivalent of an Indian corps).

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