India gains strategic heights at Pangong Lake after foiling China’s incursions


For the first time since the India-China skirmishes began at Ladakh earlier this year, the Indian Army is dominating strategic locations on the south bank of Pangong Lake, even as China enhanced deployment of troops close to the Thakung base in Indian territory and tried to change the status quo.

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Anurag Srivastava in a statement said, “On 31 August, even as the ground commanders of the two sides were in discussions to de-escalate the situation, the Chinese troops again engaged in provocative action. Due to the timely defensive action, the Indian side was able to prevent these attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo.”

In a crucial gain, India has thwarted incursion attempts by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and thereafter got hold of mountain tops—which are advantageous positions—so that Chinese troops could not come further inside Indian territory.

The Chinese forces on Monday had once again tried to change the status quo after increasing deployment in areas close to ‘Black Top’ and ‘Helmet’ areas at Line of Actual Control (LAC). Thereafter, the Dragon mobilised troops close to the Indian base at Thakung, which is in Indian territory. Foiling the Chinese designs, India got hold of Rechin La, which is about 2.5-3 km from Rezang La on the LAC on the Indian side.

 Meanwhile, top sources have said that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has also taken up the matter of fresh provocative and aggressive actions by the PLA troops with the Chinese side through diplomatic channels. Military channels have also been opened to resolve the issue. Brigadier level talks were also held on the second consecutive on Tuesday, but nothing significant came out of that parley, sources told The Daily Guardian. National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval kept a close watch over this military-level talk between India and China.

Sources say that India could raise the issue of PLA troops’ behaviour along the LAC in the ‘strongest possible way’ in the meeting. Sources also told TDG that MEA contacted the Chinese embassy in New Delhi and asked the officials concerned expressing India’s displeasure over the manner in which the Chinese troops are behaving along LAC and the leadership in Beijing sitting as a mute spectator.

“The Chinese political as well military leadership should immediately ask their troops to be disciplined,” says an official.

Taking stock of the situation, the NSA-led team also deliberated on this issue with a report likely to be compiled in the next couple of days to be given to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Chinese troops are in no mood to backtrack from where they are positioned,” says a top official. The report to the PMO will be on this line, he adds. Instead of controlling them, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s attitude has not been positive, says the official.

However, Indian forces have been asked to be determined in their position and they should not leave their position even by an inch, sources said. Top sources told TDG that New Delhi is considering summoning the Chinese ambassador Sun Weidong to register India’s protest with him.

Both the countries were engaged in a dialogue to deescalate tensions after the border standoff in the intermittent night of 29-30 August but the Chinese troops on Monday engaged in provocative action for the second time. The MEA spokesperson said, “The Chinese side however, violated this understanding and engaged in provocative military manoeuvre in the late night of August 29 and 30 in an attempt to change the status quo in the South Bank area of Pangong Lake. As stated yesterday by Indian Army, the Indian side responded to these provocative actions and took appropriate defensive measures along the LAC in order to safeguard our interests and defend the territorial integrity.”

However, on Tuesday, China accused India of crossing the Line of Actual Control. A Chinese embassy spokesperson said, “On August 31st, Indian troops violated the consensus reached in previous multi-level engagements and negotiations between China and India, illegally trespassed the Line of Actual Control again at the southern bank of the Pangong Tso Lake and near the Reqin Pass in the western sector of China-India border, and conducted flagrant provocations, which again stirred tension in the border areas.”

The Chinese embassy in India said Indian troops trespassed the LAC near the southern bank of the lake in an area called Rechin La. Meanwhile, India has said Rechin La is about 2.5-3 km from Rezang La on LAC, on the Indian side and not on Chinese side.

At Pangong Tso, China had already strengthened its positions between Finger-5 and 8. The PLA had refused to pull back eastwards from the 8-km stretch it occupied from Finger-4 to Finger-8 by building scores of new fortifications there since early May. India has asked China to completely withdraw troops from Pangong Tso. But China refuses to budge. Lodging a strong protest, Srivastava said, “We have taken up the matter of recent provocative and aggressive actions with Chinese side through both diplomatic and military channels, and have urged them to discipline and control their frontline troops from undertaking such provocative actions.”

He further added, “The Indian side is firmly committed to resolve all outstanding issues along the LAC in the Western Sector through peaceful dialogue. In this context, we expect the Chinese side to sincerely abide by the understanding reached earlier and earnestly work with India to resolve the situation and to restore peace and tranquillity in the border areas.” Both the countries have been engaged in a four-month-long standoff at the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh. Despite several levels of dialogue, there hasn›t been any breakthrough and the deadlock continues.

With inputs from T. Brajesh and agencies