SP's LandForces

Fresh Chinese Moves in Ladakh

The number of PLA battalions deployed in Ladakh has gone up from 35 in August to 50 in September. Tensions are high as opposing troops are eyeball to eyeball in certain locations and there have been incidents of shots being fired in the air.

- Lt General P.C. Katoch (Retd)

The number of PLA battalions deployed in Ladakh has gone up from 35 in August to 50 in September. Tensions are high as opposing troops are eyeball to eyeball in certain locations and there have been incidents of shots being fired in the air.

THE NEWS UP TO now was that China had inducted two Divisions plus strength (totalling about 40,000) in Eastern Ladakh during April and following its intrusions across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in May, India also built up their own deployment to about two Divisions strength, facing the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA). Beginning August 29-30, Indian troops occupied the ridgeline south of Pangong Tso Lake, heights in Chushul Sector and the Kailash Range and beyond covering the Spanggur Gap in the nick of time, beating PLA patrols out to occupy some of the dominating features. Tensions are high in areas south of Pangong Tso and there have been incidents of shots being fired in the air as well due to attempted PLA incursion.

But recent inputs indicate that China has brought forward more troops taking total PLA deployment to approximat­ely 52,000, of which about 10,000 troops have been deployed on the southern side of the Pangong Tso. The number of PLA battalions deployed in Ladakh as per one assessment has gone up from 35 in August to 50 in September – addition of 15 battalions. PLA too has occupied additional features south of Pangong Tso and opposing troops are eyeball to eyeball in certain locations. PLA attempts to intrude have been repeatedly foiled by our troops. China obviously wanted to capture whole of Pangong Tso, this being the shortest approach to Leh but faulted in not securing south bank of Pangong Tso using the surprise in MayJune while making intrusions in other areas north of Pangong Tso, Gogra-Hot Springs, Galwan and Y-Junction in Depsang. Despite the Defence Ministers of India and China having bilateral discussion in Moscow on the sidelines of the Shanghai Corporatio­n Organizati­on (SCO), followed by a similar bilateral discussion between the two Foreign Ministers at the same venue, China shows no inclinatio­n for easing tensions and withdrawin­g. The five point agreement reached at Moscow between the two foreign ministers is nothing more than reiteratio­n of earlier agreements that China has repeatedly violated.

PLA is consolidat­ing its deployment­s, constructi­ng new defences and even laying cables for communicat­ions. In some places PLA is resorting to propaganda through loudspeake­rs harping on poor conditions and food supplies to our troops, blaming Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the state of affairs, at times also playing Punjabi songs. Simultaneo­usly the Chinese media continues with hate narratives, threatenin­g war and saying India can never win against China. China also abducted five youth from Upper Subansiri District of Arunachal Pradesh and returned them only after India raised the issue officially. Togley Singkam, aged 21, one of the abducted youth, told media how he was abducted by PLA troops who had come across the LAC and tortured in captivity for 15 days. India has accused China of violating agreements and carrying out aggressive manoeuvres to change the status quo on ground. However, China puts the onus of disengagem­ent on India. Talks are to continue at military, diplomatic and political levels but there is little hope of any worthwhile progress given the fact that PLA has time and again resorted to hostile actions while talks were ongoing and even when message from China on the hotline was for disengagem­ent.

The present situation is that PLA is not allowing movement of our troops east of Finger 4 north of Pangong Tso while PLA presence continues on upper reaches of Finger 4. South of Pangong Tso, both sides are occupying heights overlookin­g each other’s camps and road communicat­ions. China now claims entire Galwan Valley and PLA deployment at Y-Junction in Depsang some 20 km deep do not permit ITBP patrols going to Patrol Point (PP) 10, 11, 11A, 12 and 13. PLA has increased deployment­s opposite Uttarakhan­d, Himachal Pradesh, three areas in Arunachal Pradesh and even opposite Bhutan. Chances of hostilitie­s breaking out are therefore a real possibilit­y. President Xi Jinping’s problems at home are increasing and he can resort to limited war to divert attention. India so far has not crossed the LAC and undertaken no quid pro quo even in areas other than Ladakh. Therefore, the initiative remains with the PLA. Logistics problems to maintain troops in Ladakh will increase once the Manali-Leh road closes for winter (mid-November to midMay if not more) and limited air landings at Leh airfield due to inclement weather. The pressure on air maintenanc­e is going to be colossal to include winter requiremen­ts of the civil population which too are huge. The additional troops deployed in the area need defences with overhead protection, which require defence stores.

Our policy makers need to examine overall requiremen­t and augment IAF resources with commercial cargo aircraft as required. Targets for stocking will need to be met well in advance not only catering for inclement weather but also disruption due to possible enemy action in case hostilitie­s break out, both in air and targeting the runway on Leh airfield, which in turn will require pre-positionin­g of runway repair resources. China has deliberate­ly violated all the confidence­building agreements and the LAC until now on the pretext that the LAC is not delineated on the map. Some opine that delineatio­n of LAC is a possible solution, which is naïve. China respects no LAC or border. If we have not grasped this after China overnight enlarged its illegal claim to entire 90,000 sq km of Arunachal Pradesh, the fault is ours. China has been at war with us since it annexed Tibet and since the 1962 invasion. We are in for a “perpetual haul” rather than calling it a “long haul” as if it would finally end, which it will not till China is balkanized. Until then China is will continue with hostilitie­s albeit there could be tactical pauses to lull us into false hopes.

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