Massive buildup at Pangong.

Massive buildup at Pangong.

China sets up military base at Finger 5 of Pangong Lake; cuts off Indian Army

Militaries continue talks to ease tensions; ministers meet mark substantial step

Agency Report | New Delhi | 11 September, 2020 | 11:00 PM

Indian troops are being deployed in large numbers along the Finger 3 ridgeline on the north bank of Pangong Tso in Ladakh where the PLA build-up has increased significantly in the last 48 hours as the Chinese seek to move further west of Finger 4. The Chinese moves on the north bank — PLA troops have been on the Finger 4 ridgeline ever since May after coming in 8 km west of Finger 8 which India says marks the Line of Actual Control --is seen as an attempt to wrest the advantage after Indian troops occupied dominating heights on the stretch from the south bank of the lake to Rechin La near Rezang La on August 29-30. Sources said the Chinese, who never vacated the Finger 4 ridgeline even after agreeing to total disengagement, massed close to 2,000 soldiers on the upper reaches of the ridge Tuesday night. Observing the Chinese troop movement, India also moved to mirror the deployment, sending almost the same number of troops to the Finger 3 ridgeline.

China has set up a military base near Finger 5, in the north bank of Pangong Lake, completely cutting off the Indian Army.

The north bank of the lake is divided into 8 Fingers (fingers are mountain spurs jutting into a lake in military parlance) that are contested by both sides.

India claims the Line of Actual Control at Finger 8 and had been holding on to area till Finger 4 but in a clear alteration of status quo, the Chinese have been camping at Finger 4 and have set up fortifications between Finger 5 and 8.

Two months ago, Indian intelligence agencies flagged that cranes, concrete mixture trucks, and other building construction machineries were spotted near Finger 5. They had also flagged that China is making military barracks and offices. Sources said China has stationed hundreds of thousands of troops as well materials at these bases. They have placed tanks, artillery guns and other military armaments at Finger 5.

At Finger 8, troops from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have set up barracks and constructed underground tunnels. They have set up huge military infrastructure at Finger 8.

Till last year, there was no military infrastructure work carried out in these disputed areas and Indian Army troops used to carry out patrols. There have been regular face-offs between the two armies between Finger 4 and Finger 8, a distance of eight kilometres, on the northern bank of the lake.

Indian Army Spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand was unavailable for comments.

Now, the Indian Army is unable to move ahead of Finger 4 as PLA troops have occupied some heights there.

As a precautionary measure, Indian troops have occupied some heights overlooking the positions occupied by the PLA.

The movement of Indian Army troops beyond Finger 4 is completely cut off, sources said, owing to provocative Chinese military movements.

India and China are engaged in a four-month-long standoff at the LAC in Eastern Ladakh. Despite several levels of dialogue, there hasn’t been any breakthrough and the deadlock continues.

On June 15, as many as 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese troops were killed in a violent clash in the Galwan Valley.

Chinese aggression started increasing along the Line of Actual Control and more particularly in Galwan Valley since May 5. The Chinese side transgressed in the areas of Kugrang Nala, Gogra and north bank of Pangong lake on May 17 and May 18. AA
Military representatives of India and China meet on Friday to ease out tensions at the border where both countries troops are metres away, ready to take on each other.

The military delegate talks have been happening continuously since September 7 when Chinese’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) made a provocative move to occupy Indian territories at the Line of Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh and it was thwarted by Indian Army forces.

India then carried out pre-emptive actions to occupy Rezang La, Rechen La, Blacktop, Goswami Hill, and other height features near Chushul to pre-empt the Chinese army activities going on there.

The Chinese have made multiple attempts to dislodge Indian troops from mountain heights.

The Brigade Commander level meeting is happening in Chushul and has remained inconclusive so far. A senior Indian Army officer said that the talks will eventually ease tensions and it is a tedious process.

In Delhi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held a crucial meeting with Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Bipin Rawat and NSA Ajit Doval along with the service chiefs over the ongoing situation.

The meeting came a day after External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, held crucial talks in Moscow to resolve the prolonged border standoff.

The Defence Minister’s meeting with the service chiefs lasted for about two hours in which Foreign Minister Jaishankar’s meeting with his counterpart and the mechanism to resolve the border tension was deliberated upon.

On Thursday, the two countries had agreed on a five-point plan for resolving the prolonged border face-off in eastern Ladakh. The plan included abiding by all existing agreements and protocol on management of the frontier, maintaining peace and tranquility and avoiding any action that could escalate matters.

India and China are engaged in a four-month-long standoff at the LAC in Eastern Ladakh. Despite several levels of dialogue, there has not been any breakthrough and the deadlock continues.
The joint statement and five-point consensus reached by both Chinese and Indian foreign ministers in Moscow marked a substantial step in cooling down the current border situation, exceeding the expectations of most international observers, Chinese mouthpiece Global Times reported.

The report said the meeting creating favourable conditions for a possible future meeting between the leaders of the two countries, Chinese experts told the Global Times on Friday.

“The successful implementation of the joint statement, however, depends on whether the Indian side can truly keep its word. Given the country’s history, it is possible that the joint statement will end up as merely “paper talk” they warned,” the report said.

In the five-point consensus, Wang and Jaishankar agreed that China and India should follow the guidance of the consensus reached between leaders of the two countries, including that divergence should not be escalated into conflicts. The current conflicts in border areas do not serve the interests of either side. The border troops of the two countries should continue their current dialogue, disengage as soon as possible, maintain necessary distances and ease the current tensions.

Qian Feng, director of the research department of the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University in Beijing, told the Global Times on Friday that the joint statement showed that under the current situation, the highest levels of the two governments are unwilling to further escalate conflicts as the de-escalation of tensions will be conducive to the two countries’ interests.

Qian noted that the five-point consensus – the short and concise agreement by the two counties – plans the direction for the next phase of discussions.

“The consensus involves maintaining communication through meetings by the Special Representatives of India and China and expediting the completion of new measures to build mutual trust, marking an important step since the conflicts first took place,” he added.

However, Chinese experts continue to allege that given India’s past history of breaking consensuses reached at such meetings, and stressed that it’s still too early to pin high hopes on its implementation, Global Times said.

While the joint press release looks fine on paper, the actual addressing of future border tensions remains unclear as India has a long history of breaking its promises, Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Friday.

“We should not only observe what India says, but also what it does. For a country like India, the most important thing is how it acts,” Hu said.

In 2005, then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao held important talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh before signing a joint statement by the two governments, in which both sides declared the establishment of a strategic partnership to promote peace and prosperity. The two governments also signed the Agreement on the Political Guiding Principles for Resolving the Boundary Issue between China and India, in which they pledged to reduce armed forces and maintain peace.

Chinese experts are blaming PM Modi for the standoff. “However, since odi assumed power, the Indian government has totally neglected this joint statement. China has kept its word, but the Indian side has provoked the recent border clashes,” Hu told the Global Times, stressing that this time China remains on high alert.

“Given the country’s sluggish economy and poor epidemic control, the Modi government will continue to try and stir up border tensions in an attempt to deflect the public’s attention. Sadly, these border tensions are used as chips to fool the public,” he noted as per Global times

Analysts said that the agreement reached this time is also largely due to strong support from the Chinese military. The logistics support could guarantee PLA soldiers an advantage in potential military conflicts when the winter comes, and analysts said that the advanced equipment shown by the Chinese military overshadows that held by its Indian counterparts.

“Only a strong military can wake up a sleepy India, words are not enough,” Hu said.

Qian said that peacefully resolving the border conflicts is important for India, as it would mean the government can then focus on addressing the country’s other problems, which would bring real benefits for the people.

He noted that as nationalism prevails in India, it becomes a true test of Indian top politicians’ wisdom to not be misdirected. The Indian government should have the ability to restrain and prevent radical military action, as per Global Times. (IANS)