New Delhi: The Indian Army is holding around 30 dominating heights and other such terrain on the southern bank of the Pangong Tso, all of which were earlier unoccupied or partly held, ThePrint has learnt.
The move comes in the wake of the recent posturing by the Indian and Chinese troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh.
According to government sources, the heights include the Rezang La and Reqin La, both dominating the Spanggur Gap and covering Patrol Points 27 to 31. They also include the dominating heights of Black Top, Hanan, Helmet, Gurung Hill, Gorkha Hill and Magar Hill among others.
Most of these heights and dominating terrain features were unoccupied or lightly held by Indian Army troops before the standoff with China in eastern Ladakh began in early May this year, the sources said.
Since then, some of these areas have been gradually reinforced, while others have been occupied in the last few days as Indian forces pre-empted PLA activity on the southern bank of the Pangong Tso to “thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change facts on ground”.
The move, the sources said, will work in favour of India in case of a trade-off of territory or while sitting across the table.
Eastern Ladakh has approximately 1,600 sq km of disputed area, of which around 350 sq km is in the south of Pangong Tso. Another 1,250 sq km is disputed in the areas north of the lake, including around 1,000 sq km in the Depsang plains.
Former 14 Corps commander Lt. Gen. P.J.S. Pannu (retd) earlier told ThePrint the southern bank gives the Indian troops an advantage in terms of monitoring the activities in the northern bank. “There has been a hardening of military posturing in the southern bank, too, by the Chinese, given that Indian troops hold certain significant heights in the region.”
Situation remains tense
The situation along the LAC continues to remain tense with the Indian and Chinese troops facing each other well within small arms firing range.
Army Chief Gen M.M. Naravane left for a two-day visit to Leh Thursday to review the security situation and operational preparedness in Ladakh region.
As reported by ThePrint earlier, specialised units of the Indian Army have climbed up the heights, facing the ridgelines of Finger 4 in the northern banks of Pangong Tso where the Chinese had built posts in April.
China currently dominates areas between Finger 4 and Finger 8, a distance of about 8 km, which comes within the Indian side of the LAC.
Defence sources said close to three brigades of troops have been deployed in the south of Pangong Tso and additional acclimatised troops are available across eastern Ladakh for any subsequent challenges.
The sources told ThePrint that all troops are fully armed, with rocket launchers and mortars, other than tanks and artillery guns and surveillance equipment, deployed in their support.
Meanwhile, brigadier-level talks have been taking place between the two sides every day since Monday, but have remained inconclusive so far.
The meetings have hinged on the tactical aspects and rules of engagement of troops at the ground level, again to avoid face-offs or escalations.