Ladakh face-off | It’s wait and watch on disengagement as China continues build-up

Ladakh face-off | It’s wait and watch on disengagement as China continues build-up

PLA activities threaten Indian Army’s positions in Daulat Beg Oldie

The June 22 consensus reached between the Indian and Chinese Corps Commanders on disengagement is yet to be implemented, a defence source said, adding that it was “wait and watch by both sides”. Meanwhile, satellite images and reports indicate a massive build-up and construction by China’s People Liberation Army (PLA) along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh in Galwan Valley and in Depsang plains, threatening the Indian Army’s positions in Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO).

“It is wait and watch, and not ending in a hurry. Optimism of ongoing engagement has to viewed with due caution,” the defence source said on disengagement.

At the Corps Commander level talks, the two sides agreed on the modalities for disengagement from all the “all friction areas” in eastern Ladakh which, officials said, would be done in a phased manner from different locations. There is no clarity yet on the time line for the proposed disengagement.

The talks were held exactly a week after the clash in Galwan Valley, resulting in the death of 20 Indian personnel, including a Colonel. Satellite images and reports indicate that between June 15 and 22, China rebuilt the observation post and also set up structures reinforcing its positions at the clash site in Galwan area. In addition, it has been learnt that Chinese troops have made ingress at Depsang plains, which could extend the conflict points on the LAC.

As reported by The Hindu on June 2, there was heavy Chinese presence in the Depsang plains, at a crucial area called the Bulge. There was also build-up of tanks and armoured vehicles on the Chinese side very close to the LAC. Fresh reports of Chinese ingress in this area threatens Indian positions at Burtse and Raki Nala well inside Indian territory, and further the DBO by bringing Chinese troops closer to the 255 km-long crucial Darbuk-Skyok-DBO road. Depsang is also close to the Karakoram pass overlooking the strategic Saltoro ridge and Siachen glacier, which the Army Chief Gen Manoj Naravane earlier this year had called the closest point of “collusivity” between India and Pakistan. When asked about the issue, Army officials declined to comment.

Plains occupied in 1962

India too has since moved its troops and armour closer, said another source without elaborating. Depsang plains is one of the few places on the LAC where tank manoeuvres are possible. In the 1962 war, Chinese troops occupied the plains and in 2013, Chinese troops came 19 km inside and pitched tents, resulting in a 21-day stand-off.

Satellite images also show a massive build-up of defensive positions by China between Finger 4 and Finger 8 on Pangong Tso, including on the ridgelines at Finger 4 area overlooking the Indian positions. The mountain spurs, also referred to as Fingers, have been a major area of contention. The fresh build-up has prevented Indian patrols from going beyond Finger 4. India’s claim of the LAC lies at Finger 8.

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