International

Sly Chinese Move After Disengagement Agreement

After the disengagement agreement, China has once again tried to take advantage. While India is struggling with the COVID crisis, China has made moves in eastern Ladakh. Chinese have entered deep areas of the Ladakh region slowly and softly. The PLA has reinforced its presence in “depth” areas of eastern Ladakh with permanent accommodations and depots. It is an aggressive stance, amid continuous de-escalation talks.

Permanent accommodations have been built by the Chinese between Kangxiwar just north of the Aksai chin and Rudok in Tibet’s Ladakh frontier. This has caused much alarm. On one hand, the Chinese president Xi recently sent a message of sympathy to PM Modi over the COVID crisis in India. While on the other hand, it has started to harden its position in the disputed areas of Ladakh. This sign of cunning Chinese disposition has come when India has her hand full with the COVID.

Additional Deployment

The Kashgar airbase is 475 km away from the Karakoram Pass and is seen as a direct deployment against India. From the Finger 4 area of Pangong Lake that has been the biggest flashpoint, Kashgar is 690 km. The distance of Daulat Beg Oldie, India’s airfield in eastern Ladakh at more than 16,000 feet the distance to Kashgar is 490 km. The area has seen the regular deployment of combat-related aircrafts

Reports have emerged about PLA’s winter deployment positions being turned into permanent structures, accommodations, and military buildings in a long arc through the Aksai Chin bulge. The area comprises depth areas from the friction points of the India-China standoff. These include Xaidulla in the southwestern part of the Xinjiang autonomous region. And a strengthened Chinese radar site at Piue which is just across from Ladakh’s Chip Chap valley. Also, a military outpost at Kyrmmgo Traggar across LAC from Hot Springs and Gogra post has been modified.

The 10,000 permanent PLA troops positioned at Kangxiwar and Rudok have been reinforced with 10,000 additional temporary troops. Important structures like helipads, ammunition depots, and Surface to Air Missiles(SAMs) that PLA had put in place following the row has been converted to permanent positions. Also, PLA has deployed long range precision rockets and a “combined air defence system” in the western theatre, assigned with securing LAC.

PLA POSITIONS

The Rutog county area, which can act as a staging area for Pangong Tso since it is only 100 km away has witnessed a lot of activities in recent days. Rutog County is only around 100 km from Pangong Tso and 110 km from Moldo, an important PLA outpost along the Line of Actual Control The Rutog County also has radar stations and SAM sites close to its location.

Since disengagement from the Pangong Tso , PLA has flatly refused to pull back from Gogra post, Hot Springs, Demchok and Depsang Plains.

Patrolling Points

Patrolling Points (PPs) were identified by India’s China Study Group in the 1970s. This was done to optimize patrolling effectiveness and resource utilization along with the disputed and undemarcarted China–India border. At the time border infrastructure was weak. Instead of patrolling the entire 3000 km plus border, troops would just be required to patrol to the patrolling points. Over time, as infrastructure, resources, and troop capability improved and increased, the patrolling points were revised. The concept of patrol points came about well before India officially accepted the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Patrolling points give a truer on–ground guide of India’s limits of actual control.

List of Patrolling Points

1.PP1 to PP3 — near Karakoram Pass

2.PP8 to PP9 — in Depsang plains

3.PP10 to PP13 including PP11A — near Depsang Plains from Raki Nala to Jivan Nala

4.PP14 — in Galwan Valley

5.PP15 — in Hot Spring

6.PP16 — between Hot Spring and Gogra in the Chang Chenmo River valley

7.PP17 and PP17A — in Gogra, 17A is Gogra Post

8.PP18 to PP23 — east of Gogra, from Chang Chemo River tributary along third stream (coordinates: 34.2937, 79.0532) towards Pangong Tso.

GOGRA

Chinese intrusion in Gogra took place in May last year. It happened after PLA violated the LAC at Pangong Tso and tensions emerged in Galwan valley. Indian troops used to patrol up to Patrolling Point 17A (PP-17A) which is known as the Gogra Post. However, china moved a platoon of soldiers 3km inside the Indian perception of LAC. Following the disengagement agreement reached in the wake of the 15 June 2020 Galwan clash, the Chinese were supposed to move back to their side of the LAC. While the limited movement did take place, but complete pullback wasn’t implemented.

HOT SPRINGS

Chinese came within the Indian perception of the LAC here, blocking PP-15 in larger Hot Spring area. In July last yr, the Chinese agreed to pull back from the area but again didn’t fully implement the agreement.

DEPSANG PLAINS

These come under the Sub-Sector North (SSN) and is a key area. Depsang has witnessed Chinese strongarm tactics time and again as it is associated with a bigger strategic potential than Gogra and Hot Springs. Tensions at Depsang Plains can be traced back to 2013. At the time, PLA carried out 18km incursion into the area, which is close to the strategic Daulat Beg Oldi Base. Tensions escalated during the 2017 Doklam standoff.

According to sources, the issue in the Depsang Plains relates to China blocking Indian patrolling parties from accessing 5 Patrolling Points; PP-10, PP-11, PP-11A, PP-12, and PP-13. To reach these points Indian patrol personnel have to walk through an area referred to as “bottleneck” which is too narrow for the vehicles. Less than a km after this is an area called “Y junction” , which has 2 routes. One going to PP-10, PP-11, PP-11A, and PP-12. Second one going to PP-13. Also, Chinese have installed cameras in the area and block Indian patrols with the vehicles they drive in from their side.

DEMCHOK

The issue of Demchok is another legacy problem. The area has always seen face-offs because the perception of the LAC differs vastly on both sides.

Disengagement Not Fulfilled

The swift pace of disengagement in the Pangong Tso area in February — it began and ended in less than 10 days — raised hopes of positive outcomes at the remaining flashpoints on the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC).But the initial optimism appears to have waned after the latest 11th round of military talks on April 9 during which the PLA demonstrated a lack of commitment to restore the status quo of April 2020.

The disengagement saw both armies pull back troops deployed eyeball-to-eyeball on the Finger 4 ridgeline at heights of almost 18,000 feet on the northern bank as well as withdrawing soldiers holding positions on the Kailash range on the southern bank. On the northern bank, the PLA retreated to its base east of Finger 8, while the Indian Army moved back to its permanent position near Finger 3. Under the disengagement agreement, both sides agreed not to patrol the contested areas between Fingers 4 and 8 until an agreement was reached through future talks. The Indian claim line in this sector extends to Finger 8, while the Chinese claim is up to Finger 4.

According to reports, following the Galwan Valley clashes, the two sides had during talks agreed to disengage from PP-14 (Galwan Valley), PP-15, and PP-17A after the third round of meeting of the senior military commanders in June. However, though China pulled back its troops from PP-14, it failed to complete the disengagement from PP-15 and PP-17A.

Conclusion

The move by the PLA in eastern Ladakh isn’t surprising. This is something the Chinese are well versed in. That is, stating something and doing something else altogether.

Read this post as well!

But the important question arises : what are India’s preparations? In the next post we will try and look into that.

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Biswash

A defence aspirant, preparing for the Indian Armed forces and on the path to discover more and more about India and the challenges it faces on her quest to better it's position in the world order.

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