India is “closely monitoring the situation and taking appropriate steps” sources said a day after Army Chief General Manoj Naravane visited the Leh-based 14 Corps headquarters to review the “overall situation on the ground,” even as reports indicated that Chinese troops remain in areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh that are patrolled by India.
“Situation remains tense at Pangong Tso, Galwan Nalah and Demchok. It is being closely monitored,” sources said, as more troops are being moved into the areas of conflict in Sikkim and Ladakh.
In particular, sources told The Hindu that Chinese troops are maintaining positions at 3-4 points along the Galwan nalah, from “point 14 to Gogra mountain”.
This is a big concern at this point, as these run close to the 255 km Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi (DSDBO) road, a vital link for the military.
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According to the sources, at each of these points, the PLA has stationed troops, dug in tents and even bunkers. The situation has been escalating since initial incursions in mid-April, after Indian and Chinese soldiers exchanged blows and inflicted injuries.
Another worry, said an officer previously posted in the area, is the fact that skirmishes took place at so many points, indicating a more coordinated push by the PLA.
“Simultaneous incidents across the LAC in Eastern Ladakh at Pangong Tso, Galwan Nalah and Demchok, are a big worry” the officer said, on condition of anonymity.
“Normally stand-offs happen in a local area, but are resolved at the local level,” a former Northern Army Commander, (who also asked not to be named), told The Hindu, adding that the current situation, which indicates planning at a “higher level in China” must be resolved at the diplomatic and political level.
The Ministry of External Affairs declined to comment on reports of the Chinese incursions. “Established mechanisms are used to resolve such situations,” the MEA spokesperson said, when asked whether national Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval, or External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had been in contact with Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi.
Mr. Doval and Mr. Wang, who are the designated Special Representatives of India and China, had met last on December 21, 2019, to discuss bringing an “early settlement of the boundary question” as per talks between Prime Minister Modi and President Xi on the issue.
The situation started building up in late April and resulted in scuffles at Pangong Tso on may05/06 and at Naku La in North Sikkim on May 9 which resulted in significant injuries due to “aggressive behaviour on both sides”. Chinese troops moved in in large numbers with vehicles and equipment objecting to road construction by India and have also pitched tents, sources said. The Army has declined to comment despite repeated requests.
Chinese troops are close to Finger 2 area of Pangong Tso area and are blocking our movement forward, two sources said. The Pangong Tso is 135 km long and 5-7 km in width of which about one-third is held by India while the rest is held by China. The mountain folds are referred to as ‘Fingers’ of which India claims upto ‘Finger 8’ but holds till ‘Finger 4.’ The lake has been an area of frequent standoffs and after the scuffle on May 5, both sides moved in additional troops and are entrenched there.
Over the last decade, India has significantly augmented its infrastructure and deployments in Ladakh. For instance, in a major operational change, since 2012 the Army began deploying units on longer tenures along the LAC which prior to that were on six month short tenures before heading to or returning from the Siachen Glacier called loop battalions. This has meant availability of more acclimatized troops and also more patrols in the claim areas resulting in more face-offs.