India China standoff explained: Bridge over troubled waters
India has matched the China army’s deployment in terms of troops, capacity and resources in eastern Ladakh that is witnessing four simultaneous standoffs between the two armies. Here is everything you need to know about the Ladakh standoff.
What is the Ladakh standoff about?
China has moved two brigade strength of People’s Liberation Army, over 6000 soldiers and support elements, at four locations in eastern Ladakh, three in the Galwan Valley and one near Pangong Lake. In response, India had also moved an equal number of high-altitude warfare troops to these areas closer to the Line of Actual Control.
Have the Chinese soldiers intruded into Indian territory?
No. Initial information suggests that the Chinese troops have not expanded the disputed areas of the border either Galwan or Pangong Tso but their presence in large numbers is seen to be adopting an aggressive posture. The troop buildup is China’s response to border projects on the Indian side that would make these areas easily accessible to Indian soldiers and heavy weaponry.
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Do the Chinese attempt to stall projects on our side?
India is playing catch up with China that has built an extensive border infrastructure and laid metalled roads to connect all military outposts to their base camps. But there have been ongoing efforts by the Chinese army, now and then, to stall projects at Pangong Tso, Galwan and Depsang Plains.
What is the latest dispute over?
The first standoff between the two sides is happening around the Pangong lake.
Overlooking the lake is the Sirijap range, which has several cliffs jutting out. These are numbered 1 to 8 by the military. India’s LAC claim line extends to Finger 8. Chinese PLA’s patrol teams normally come from behind Finger 8 cliff and are intercepted by Indian patrol around Finger 6.
Since the Chinese forces are able to spend a considerable amount of time on the Indian side of the claim line before they are detected, the army decided to build a new observation point at Finger 8 that would give Indian soldiers a birds eye view of the area and spot Chinese patrols as soon as they entered the area.
This time, a large number of Chinese PLA soldiers reached the area near Finger 6 where they are usually intercepted to put pressure on the Indian side to halt work at the observation post.
A scuffle broke out between the Indian and Chinese soldiers near the lake on the night of May 5-6 but a flare-up was avoided as both armies stuck to protocols to resolve the stand-off.
And the other?
The second dispute started over a 60-metre long bridge being built by India in the Depsang Plains across the Galwan rivulet. This point is close to the confluence of the rivulet to the Shyok River. This bridge, once complete, would give soldiers easy access to Daulat Beg Oldie, the last military post south of the Karakoram Pass. In the absence of the road, this outpost is supplied via mule trains from Murgo. The PLA beefed up its presence on its side of the LAC at Patrolling Points 14, 15 and 17. These locations are about six kilometres to the east to the confluence. The Chinese soldiers have not crossed into Indian territory but their posturing is considered aggressive.
Is this similar to the 2013 faceoff between the two sides?
Strictly speaking, this time the thousands of soldiers that have been moved by both sides aren’t really face to face as was the case in 2013. But at that time also, the faceoff that took place at Ladakh’s Depsang Plains was aimed at browbeating the Indian side into stopping building roads and an observation post in Himachal Pradesh’s Chumar, a day’s mountainous drive from Depsang.
Why do the two sides keep on having border standoffs?
One reason is the Chinese attempt to stop construction activities on the Indian side. The second reason is linked to the differing perceptions of the Line of Actual Control, which in eastern Ladakh, generally corresponds to the position reached as a result of the 1962 conflict.
Are the two countries making efforts to end the standoff?
India responded to the belligerence displayed by the Chinese side by moving reinforcements to the border hotspots but underlined the importance of ensuring peace and tranquillity in the border regions.
President Xi Jinping, who is also head of China’s military commission, appeared to amp up the rhetoric this week when he told the military to be prepared for war at the National People’s Congress. But there has been a marked climbdown by Beijing. The people’s congress, an annual meeting of China’s ceremonial parliament, ends tomorrow. On Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry stressed that the China-India border area situation is overall “stable and controllable” and stressed on bilateral negotiations at diplomatic and military levels to de-escalate tension at the border.