New Delhi: The Chinese move to position itself between Finger 4 and Finger 8 of the Pangong Lake, a total of 8 km inside India’s Line of Actual Control (LAC), is bullying tactics to stop India’s road construction activity, sources in the defence and security establishment said.
While a road from Finger 2 to Finger 4 is something that has been in the works for long, a fresh attempt was being made by India, sources told ThePrint.
“To travel from Finger 3 to Finger 4, the Indians have to do so by foot through a narrow track. An attempt was being made to build a proper track to Finger 4 which was being objected to by the Chinese,” a source said.
Military standpoints at Pangong lake fingers
The Chinese had managed to build a motorable track from its Sirijap Post, captured in the 1962 War which is beyond Finger 8, till Finger 5 when the Indian presence had thinned down in 1999 as troops were moved to fight the Kargil battle, which needed acclimated soldiers.
The Chinese track was further extended to Finger 4. This allowed the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to patrol only till this point by vehicles, though China lays claim to the area till Finger 2, sources said.
So instead, they used boats to go beyond Finger 4 to claim their territory, just like the Indians did till Finger 8 to establish claim over the territory.
Asked about the strategic implications of Chinese sitting at Finger 4, a source said the Indian assessment is that “the Chinese move is tactical and land grabbing. There is no strategic heft for the Chinese by sitting at Finger 4. This is nothing but bullying”.
Sources said the Chinese are attempting to change the status quo of the LAC.
“As per the established practice, Chinese used to patrol till Finger 4 and Indians patrolled till Finger 8. However, over the last few years, the Chinese had started to stop Indians midway near Finger 5. They could observe the Indian movement from their Sirijap Post and they used to come down to stop them,” the source said.
Indian troops had also started opposing Chinese patrol ahead of Finger 4.
ThePrint had earlier reported that Indian troops had used an alternate route to reach Finger 8 just before the winter set in, taking the Chinese by surprise.
A recent undated video had come out, which showed Indians stopping the patrol team of China. Sources who have served in the Pangong area said the topography and presence of Chinese vehicles suggested it is between Finger 4 and Finger 5.
The sources also said physical clashes had become quite regular in the Pangong area between the two sides in the recent past.
A clash is supposed to have taken place in early May as Indians stopped the Chinese from patrolling. This clash could have preceded the 5 May clash in which scores of Indian soldiers were injured along with the Chinese, sources suggested.
Following the clash, the Chinese came in with large numbers and have positioned themselves in areas till Finger 4. Over time, since the 5 May clash, the Chinese have built a number of structures between Finger 4 and 5 to base its soldiers and equipment.
The situation in Pangong continues to be a major challenge as the Chinese have not shown any inclination to de-escalate or disengage here, sources said.
“Chinese argument is that they built the road in 1999 and hence it is their area. This is against the established norms at the local level where the LAC is Finger 8,” a source said.