New Delhi: It has been nearly two weeks since India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi reached a five-point consensus on de-escalating tensions along the Line of Actual Control. But there seems to have been no movement towards disengagement on the ground in eastern Ladakh yet.
The two countries issued a joint statement Tuesday evening, after the sixth round of military commander-level talks the previous day, in which they agreed to stop sending more troops to the frontline, refrain from unilaterally changing the situation on the ground, and avoid taking any action that may complicate the situation.
The India-China standoff has been continuing since April-May, and took another turn earlier this month when shots were fired along the Line of Actual Control for the first time in 45 years. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s statement in Parliament last week was the government’s first formal, high-level statement on the standoff. He said the India-China relationship could not progress if there was trouble and instability on the border, but also blamed China for violating past protocols when it moved large bodies of troops, equipment and ammunition to the LAC in April.
An unusually candid Rajnath also said there was no commonly delineated LAC and that China did not recognise traditional or geographical boundaries. His statement just went to show how complicated the situation at the LAC in eastern Ladakh really is. ThePrint tries to simplify things with the help of a few maps of the region.
While the Chinese incursion into Indian territory began in April (see map above), the People’s Liberation Army had started transgressing key points in the Depsang Plains much before.
The Depsang Plains, located in the northern part of eastern Ladakh, are close to the strategically important Daulat Beg Oldie (near the Karakoram Pass), where India’s highest airstrip is located. The plains come under India’s sub sector north (SSN), and lie between the Siachen Glacier on one side and Chinese-controlled Aksai Chin on the other.
For months now, China has been denying Indian troops access to patrol points 10 to 13 in Depsang from a strategic bottleneck called the Y junction.
Defence sources say China is blocking Indian soldiers’ access to a large tract of land, which adds up to 972 square kilometres.
While the main flashpoints of the India-China tension lie further south, including the heights and other features near Pangong Tso, satellite images have shown an additional deployment of troops from both sides at the Depsang Plains. The Chinese have deployed additional tanks and artillery guns and moved them forward from their usual positions, while India has deployed additional men, tanks and other equipment into the area in response to the build-up.
As reported by ThePrint, the tensions in the Depsang Plains go back to China’s 18-km incursion into the area in 2013, followed by the 2017 Doklam standoff near India’s tri-junction with China and Bhutan to the east.
In 2013, despite talks in which both India and China agreed to go back from their positions, PLA troops never went back completely across what India perceives to be the LAC.
India has created a separate brigade to look after the SSN following 2013.
Also read: Why Depsang Plains, eyed by China, is crucial for India’s defence in Ladakh
Galwan Valley, Hot Springs and Gogra Post
A violent clash between Indian and Chinese troops on 15 June had brought the Galwan Valley into focus. The violence, in which no firing took place, killed 20 Indian soldiers, including the commanding officer of 16 Bihar, Colonel Santosh Babu.
Sources said this area could give the Chinese unfettered domination of the strategic Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DS-DBO) road. “The Galwan clashes were an attempt by the Chinese to dominate these areas,” a defence source told ThePrint.
It is for the same reason that the Border Roads Organisation has stepped up work on an alternate route to DBO, which will run along the Nubra river to the vital locations of Sasser La and Gapshan before joining the existing DS-DBO road.
Since the incident and multiple levels of military and diplomatic talks, Chinese troops have moved back from their positions in Galwan Valley, but a buffer zone has been created on either side of the LAC. As a result, Indian troops are not able to access patrol point 14.
At Hot Springs and Gogra Post, however, Chinese troops have not fully pulled back, and have left some elements behind.
India continues to carry out constant surveillance of the area. Additional troops have been deployed along the DS-DBO road, which passes close to the Galwan Valley, for faster movement of reserves and a quicker response in case of an operational requirement.
Also read: The story of what really happened when Chinese troops ‘withdrew’ from Galwan Post 58 years back
Northern bank of Pangong Tso and its fingers
The 134-km-long northern bank of the Pangong lake has turned out to be the most crucial flashpoint in the current standoff.
The northern bank juts out into the lake like a palm, and the various protrusions or mountain spurs are identified as ‘fingers’ to demarcate territory.
While India asserts that the LAC lies at Finger 8, China claims it starts at Finger 2, which India dominates.
Since the beginning of the standoff, China has come to dominate the area between Finger 4 and Finger 8, a distance of about 8 km, which India has repeatedly asserted lies on its side of the LAC.
Defence officials said while China committed to pull back its troops after the military-level talks between the two sides, they have refused to vacate Finger 4 completely, though some troops were pulled back initially.
Sources say holding Finger 4 offers the Chinese troops a better visual on Indian troop positions further west. As a result, the talks between the two sides also hit a roadblock and reached an uneasy stalemate before Indian troops captured some key heights on the southern bank of Pangong Tso, pre-empting Chinese military mobilisation near the Spanggur lake.
This move, sources had said, gives better bargaining power to the Indian side during talks.
The situation at Finger 4 is tense after Indian Army troops took control of heights overlooking Chinese army positions.
Just before Jaishankar and Wang Yi’s meeting in Moscow on 10 September, multiple rounds were fired in air by troops on both sides at the overlapping heights of Finger 3 and 4, making it the second such incident at the LAC in 45 years.
Also read: Why the serene Pangong lake lies at the heart of India-China border dispute in Ladakh
Southern bank of Pangong Tso
The latest flashpoint in the tensions saw the Indian Army occupy key heights on the southern bank of Pangong Tso. This is where Chinese troops are said to have fired shots for the first time in 45 years.
Indian and Chinese troops were at a distance of barely 300 metres from each other, with a group of 40 Chinese soldiers staying put at one location, sources said.
Aside from firing, Chinese troops at some places had also moved in with clubs, machetes and spears among other sharp weapons — similar to what they carried during the Galwan clash on 15 June. The Chinese have deployed tanks and artillery guns near the Spanggur Gap. India has also put in place troops and equipment to counter the Chinese deployment.
Sources said the southern bank of Pangong Tso emerged as a new front after Indian troops pre-empted Chinese military mobilisation and occupied around 30 dominating heights and terrain features close to the LAC — including Rezang La, Rechin La and Magar Hill among others — on 29-30 August. There were reports of action at a feature called Black Top too, but sources in India’s defence and security establishment underlined that the forces had not crossed the LAC.
The southern bank also gives the Indian troops an advantage in terms of monitoring activities on the northern bank of the lake.
Also read: Why southern bank of Pangong Tso is the new flashpoint in India-China stand-off
Iftikhar rake roghaniyamuslimrefugees into Pakistan and china both you countries are clean bowled regarding the fascist narcissist alchemist making the cow urine comment abbey I shall drink beer and then break the beer bottle on your head if you come in front of me
The location of Depsang Plains and DBO in MAP-1 are both off by a wide margin. I should know, I trekked from Sasoma (near Panamik in the Nubra Valley) to Karakoram Pass and back in 1997.
DBO should be somewhere above the ‘P’ of the notation “DEPSANG PLAINS” and the Depsang Plains themselves are to the South-East of what you’ve shown, with the ‘S’ of the notation “DEPSANG PLAINS” in the centre of the actual plains.
The location shown is far to the North-West, right next to the Rino glaciers that are the source of the Shyok river.
The LAC passes roughly through the ‘L’ of the notation “DEPSANG PLAINS”. The purpose of the map is to explain the clash and conflicting claims on the LAC, so the LAC should have been marked!
Since maps play such a crucial role in explaining the situation from a geographical perspective, it is essential that they be cartographically accurate rather than just representational. You might like to correct Map-1 accordingly.
Might I also suggest that prior to publication, your maps be vetted by an expert with local knowledge rather than relying on the ‘reliability’ of the source?
The location of Murgo (more correctly, MORGO) in MAP-1 is completely off, by about a hundred kilometres! Having trekked from Sasoma (near Panamik, in the Nubra valley) to Karakoram Pass and back in 1997, I should know.
Morgo comes after Chongtash, well before Depsang La. It’s about one-and-a-half days’ march short of Track Junction (one day if you push hard).
You might like to correct this map accordingly.
If I may suggest, you could have your maps cross-checked by someone with local knowledge prior to publication! 🙂
Print and Wire seems to present different versions from that of defence.How and from where you got tiff that indian soldiers fired? that was not the version of defence but of global times. Alas, what an intelligent reporting? Have you ever crossed khardungla pass or nathula pass?
CHINA MUST LEAVE UN BECAUSE OF THEIR OWN ARROGANCE.
Indians are so Coward that they can only oppress innocent citizen with the help of police, army, local gundas backed by Godi media n judicial backingon frontier they pissed in their own pants rather to fight n defend their fascist country.
This fascist BJP GOVERNMENT Led by Devil n Hitler minded uneducated Modi has failed in all fronts internal n external politics. They don’t have a single neighbouring country as their friends.
They have ruined Indian public’s life physically n financially.
Complete chaos n very soon India will be divided into many parts.
True. They can only kill innocent Kashmiries in occupied Kashmir
You are reveling your ever defeated and bankrupt mind set. India is emerging as a big economic and military power and it’s due to this Chinese dare not to take a fight with us whereas we are just waiting for their initiative to annihilate their arrogance once for ever.
WAR IS NOT A SOLUTION FOR PRESENT WORLD. BOTH THE COUNTRIES SHOULD SIT TOGETHER
TO DEMARCATE BORDER. NOW WE HAVE A STRONG GOVT., IN INDIA. EVEN IF THIS GOVT. DOES NOT SOLVE THIS BORDER PROBLEMS WHO ELSE CAN DO? NOW THE GOVT., SHOULD IGNORE
DIFFERENCES ON RELIGIOUS AND LANGUAGE GROUNDS AND CONCENTRATE ON SOLVING BORDER PROBLEMS. WE WANT A STATESMAN NOT A POLITICIAN.
But the maps seem to be wrong. LAC seems to be to the west of Chinese claim line in the upper half (so between Karakoram pass and South Bank of Pangong Tso) of the map. Why would the Chinese come crossing their claim line? And in the bottom half, is the LAC actually to the east of the Chinese claim line? This seems to be confusing.
LAC and chinese claim line are reversed i guess
the maps are an essential element to give ordinary civilians an idea as to the scale & nature of the environment in which battle is to be waged. This is inevitable due to the expansive aggressive nature of the CCP & Xi as its’ megalomaniacal head. Please ask your map makers to include a scale of miles & frequent elevation markers. Delineation showing permanent glaciers & rocky ( boulder) topography as opposed to smooth ground would be helpful. Snow lines showing 2 feet of snow or more for the different months as well as average night & daytime temperatures for those months, can give Americans an idea of the extremes the SFF is fighting under. The mobility of the terrain for utilizing ski troops, snow mobiles, snow cats ( larger armored tracked vehicles with soldier accommodations-APC’s ), or double hump camels ( Bactrian Camels ) for logistics, is important as to the potential of maneuverability for Alpine warfare. A separate
India can never trust China. China’s and Xi’s words are written in water and mean nothing.
China is readying for war and maybe needs more time since the South China seas nearer American elections may precipitate a war in SCS; so they are pretending to assure India waiting to see what happens in the next few months in SCS.
Factually India is not trust worthy. PM Modi and his entire government is lier. Occupation in Jammu and Kashmir, killing innocent muslims and all minorities are not safe in India. China doing rightly and recapturing their area in Ladhak. Time is coming to teach lessons to fascist regim of Modi.
Panjwani from wherever you r piggistan or dog eater nation- you don’t know anything. Piggistan is kissing ass of balochs, sindhis, pakhtuns, ahmediyas n Shias. Dog n bat eaters r kissing ass of uighyurs, falong gong, hongkong democracy activists. Panjwani eat pigs n dogs n try bats too- it may open ur mind.
Who actually fired the shots after 45 years? Indian!?
Daemon didn’t know that you are a cartographer and could explain everything. Don’t post cock and Bull
A filthy nation full of cowards who only harm unarmed Kashmiri civilians to assert their dominance and that drink cow urine on regular basis cannot win any war. Thats why you people have been ruled by different powers since 8th century or for nearly 1200 years.
Most of the Hindoo elite are the biggest Moral Corruptors which is worse than slaughter.
Lost territory is not recovered by publishing maps…………If 1.4 million Indian army is not going to fight & recover the lost 1000 sq km territory then what is the use of this mammoth force???
Good attempt at quality journalism.
Difficult for public to understand otherwise. It would have been good if you had indicated Saser La, Gapshan and the Karakoram Pass also.
Also whenever possible please try on Hot Springs – Gogra and Demchok – Chumur sectors.
CHINA IS MOST UNRELIABLE, AGGRESSIVE & FRAUDESTER COUNTRY WHO IS NOT RELIABLE BY VIOLATING ALL PREVIOUS AGREEMENTS ENTERED WITH INDIA. THE PRESENT BORDER CANNOT BE RESOLVED UNLESS TIBET IS LIBERATED FROM CHINESE FORCIBLE OCCUPATION IN 1950. THIS CAN BE DONE BY ECONOMICAL BOYCOT OF CHINA BY ALL UN MEMBER COUNTRIES. ONLY THEN BORDER PROBLEM WITH CHINA CAN BE RESOLVED.
Actually india is the most notorious country whose rulers are most prejudice and their prejudice nature will result in destruction of the country… inshallah…..
Very good idea & I hope this going to happen and come to reality within few years of time. God bless Tibet & its people & help India also.
Very poor representation of maps which are totally confusing – misrepresenting Chinese claim line & present positions, Locations of specific points, topography. All in all the maps & the blah-blah scribbling is useless. Not worth ‘THE PRINT’ & not worth wasting time reading it.
The print and all news paper highlights of the Ladakh,finger four to eight along with Arunachal,Sikim area along with jummu-kashmir area but my question as to why you are not understand all the Indian Adjacent countries territory where Chinese “BRI RED TRAPS THEY’RE SYNDROME “receivers boarders shouldn’t be counting please?as Chinese viruses killing episode running over the global nation….so as to why against China….all global nation not seeking compensation?and why United Nations not withheld /cancelled the China’s Membership from the United Nations?
Looks like in the first picture. The labels of LAC and Chinese Claim line are interchanged
Thank you for the maps, even if they are not for scale. Without map, it is hard to visualize the geography and under the strategic scenario. Much needed at this junction.
Amrita Nayak Dutta ever been to Ladakh, ever played PUBG , don’t think that Maps and PUBG replace the actualities. Except for sensation you have created nothing else
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