Chinese buildup in Pangong Tso poses fresh challenge

Indian Army trucks

The situation at Pangong Tso, the site of the other ongoing standoff between India and China, has taken a serious turn with Chinese troops using the six-week period to fortify defences that may be difficult to dismantle, if and when talks take place on a pullback.

People familiar with the details told ET that while all the attention has been on Galwan Valley, the Chinese have quietly built big, seemingly permanent, structures in the area between Fingers 4 and 8 in Pangong Tso.

20th june graph

Ground reports as well as fresh satellite images available with the armed forces show that after occupying the area up to the feature called Finger 4 — located more than 5 km inside India’s perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) — in early May, the Chinese side has carried out a big construction project that includes several new structures. A marina-like facade has come up near the lake with hardened defences along the ridge line.

All these constructions, sources said, have been carried out in just over a month, after a clash on the night of May 5, when an Indian patrol party was stopped by the Chinese from crossing Finger 4, resulting in injuries to soldiers on both sides.

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Chinese Defences on Heights

What has got security agencies concerned are the new defences on the heights near Finger 4, which allow Chinese troops to dominate the entire area, making it difficult for Indian forces to operate or patrol in the vicinity.

In a well-known video that emerged in 2017, troops were seen pelting stones and indulging in hand-to-hand combat on the beach located at Finger 4. Latest images show that this beach area has now been converted into a marina, with boat sheds and administrative camps. India’s access to the beach along the lake has been blocked with at least two fortified structures. A metalled road has also been constructed.

Route Blocked

Sources said the new structures would block any possibility of Indian troops crossing the Finger 4 bend along the lake — the traditional route used for patrolling. Also, a series of bunkers have been constructed on the ridge along Finger 4, which gives the Chinese side a dominant view — and, potentially, firing range — over the Indian side of the Finger Area.

Source: Economic Times