New Delhi: The Chinese domination of the area between Fingers 4 and 8 of the Pangong Lake is a blatant attempt to change the status quo of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), a former Colonel who commanded a battalion there in 2017, has said.
The Chinese bid to change the status quo is “too obvious and too blatant to be allowed to remain like that”, Col S. Dinny (Retd) told ThePrint in an interview Tuesday, before it was reported that the two sides had decided to pursue step-wise de-escalation after 11-hour talks Monday.
“Pangong Tso is a hot area where the differing perception of LAC is very stark,” Dinny said, adding that it was a matter of strategy for the Chinese to never fix a claim line in Pangong.
However, Dinny added that the incursions were more of a message to India amid its construction activities in the area, and had no tactical significance. “I think the Chinese will go back eventually,” he said.
‘A message to India’
The Pangong Lake’s northern bank juts forward like a palm, and the various protrusions are identified as “fingers” to demarcate territory. While India asserts that the LAC is at Finger 8, the Chinese claim it starts at Finger 2, which India dominates.
During the Kargil battle, when Indian troops were diverted from the area to fight Pakistan, China had stepped in and built a motorable road until Finger 4, Col Dinny said. The Chinese side conducted patrols until Finger 4 in the subsequent years, but never built any structures in the area.
Since April 2020, however, the Chinese have come in by about eight km and built a number of structures between Finger 4 and Finger 8.
“The Indian stand is to get back to the status quo ante, which means that the Chinese will have to vacate. They will have to go back to their post in Sirijap as was in April,” Col Dinny said.
Asked what was the Chinese perception of the LAC, he said Beijing had never been clear about it. “At times they used to claim it was Finger 4, at times they used to claim it was Finger 2 and even Finger 3. This is part of the Chinese strategy. But they never patrolled beyond Finger 4 by land,” he said.
“There is no tactical significance to the Chinese coming down to Finger 4. It is primarily an assertion by the Chinese,” he said.
“The Chinese have mentioned infrastructure activity by India as a concern. I think the Chinese will go back eventually. They just want to assert themselves, claiming it is their area since it had built the road in 1999,” he said.
The Indians are in the process of building a road from Finger 2 to Finger 4 and the work had picked up pace in the recent past, sources said.
The India-China stand-off, simmering since early May, reached boiling point last week as soldiers on the two sides came to blows at the Galwan Valley in Ladakh.
Twenty Indian soldiers died in the clash, as did an unconfirmed number of the Chinese side. The two sides decided at a meeting Monday to avoid any repetition of a Galwan Valley-like clash, which marked the first time in 45 years that a soldier died at the LAC on account of clashes between the two Asian giants.