New Delhi: Specialised elements of the Indian Army outflanked China’s People’s Liberation Army on the night of 29 August, dominating at least four locations claimed by both sides near the southern bank of the Pangong Tso.
The action drew a sharp verbal reaction from the Chinese military, with the Western Theatre Command of the PLA, which oversees borders with India, issuing a statement accusing the Indian Army of violating the consensus reached at the multi-level talks between both countries.
Indian troops have violated the consensus reached at the multi-level talks between #India and #China and again crossed the line of actual control at the border on Monday and purposely launched provocations: PLA Western Theater Command pic.twitter.com/drzZTMHpgW
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) August 31, 2020
The remarks by the PLA came hours after the Indian Army issued a statement, saying that on the night of 29 August, PLA troops violated the agreed consensus, and carried out provocative military movements to change the status quo.
It said Indian troops pre-empted PLA activity on the southern bank of Pangong Tso, undertook measures to strengthen positions and “thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change facts on ground”, adding that the Indian Army is committed to maintaining peace and tranquillity through dialogue, but is also equally determined to protect its territorial integrity.
Control of heights
Elaborating on the Army statement, a source said after picking up intelligence about Chinese movement at around 11 pm Saturday to “capture fresh territory in the cover of darkness”, Indian troops moved in faster and occupied the heights that are claimed by both countries.
“The Chinese had planned to capture these heights, which would have given them an advantage. In such terrain, anyone who has the heights holds the upper hand,” the source said.
However, the PLA denied any such move, saying Chinese troops are taking necessary measures in response to Indian troops’ “provocations”, and will closely follow the situation and resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, peace and stability at the border.
Government sources said the Army deployed troops in certain key areas, including Rezang La, and carried out reconnaissance of other important heights in the vicinity over the past several days.
With heights being dominated now, the Army has also moved in additional troops, who have been brought in from the reserve columns that were deployed in eastern Ladakh after the stand-off with China began in early May.
Sources said domination of hilltops and passes in areas claimed by both sides, but where the Indians had the upper hand, was always part of the “military options” that Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat had mentioned. However, there was no physical clash between the two sides, the sources said.
Sources explained India’s move as a “race to the passes”, saying whoever gets to the heights first in a hilly terrain dominates the area. They said the demand within a certain section in the defence and security establishment was that India should dominate heights and passes in locations where it can, in order to counter China’s aggression in other areas.
Even though formal talks between the two sides have not made any headway since July, China continues with its massive military build-up along the LAC, which includes construction of new heliports and surface-to-air missiles sites.