|An Indian Air Force aircraft in Ladakh on July 10.(PTI)|
So far, Chinese aggression in this sector in eastern Ladakh was confined to the lake’s northern bank – the Finger Area that has emerged as the toughest part of the disengagement process.
“The PLA’s intentions stand exposed. Instead of carrying out disengagement and restoring status quo ante in the existing friction areas, China is bent on changing the status quo in new areas,” one of the officials cited above said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
In a statement on the latest Chinese provocation, the Indian Army said PLA has violated the consensus reached during military and diplomatic talks to reduce tension in eastern Ladakh, where the two sides have been locked in a tense confrontation since early May.
Experts concurred that PLA was attempting to change the status quo in new areas and stressed that India has to stay prepared to thwart such moves.
“While there are areas on the northern bank where the Indian Army only carries out patrolling, the southern bank is strongly held by us. The PLA is fully conscious of it. Any transgression by the PLA in this area is a clear indication that China is trying to change the status quo and open a new front,” said former Northern Army commander Lt Gen (retired) DS Hooda.
The lake’s northern bank has been at the centre of the current border tensions, as PLA has refused to withdraw from the Finger Area, a set of eight cliffs jutting out of Sirijap range overlooking the lake.
Before PLA grabbed positions on Finger 4, overlooking Indian deployments, the Indian Army would patrol up to Finger 8, which New Delhi considers an integral part of its territory.
The new positions held by PLA have curtailed the scope of Indian patrols.
PLA is likely to intrude into other areas to exert pressure on the Indian Army and build its bargaining power, and the Depsang sector is one such vulnerable area, said Lt Gen (retired) BS Jaswal, also a former Northern Army commander.
PLA’s forward deployments in Depsang have hindered the access of Indian soldiers to several patrolling routes, including the ones leading to Patrolling Points (PPs) 10, 11, 11A 12 and 13. The military buildup in this sector includes the deployment of tanks and artillery by the two sides.
The Indian Army has to keep a strict vigil all along the disputed border with China – from Ladakh and Uttarakhand to Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, said Lt Gen (retired) Rakesh Sharma, a former commander of Leh-based 14 Corps headquarters.
“China is flexing its military muscles to show it can do whatever it wants and not expecting any reaction. But our troops were fully prepared on Pangong Lake’s southern bank and reacted promptly,” Sharma said.