After Pangong clashes with Chinese troops, Army officers hold exercises near Chang La Pass
After clashing with Chinese troops in Pangong Lake of Ladakh on August 15, security officers are holding military exercises near Chang La Pass at 14,000 feet.
After Pangong became the latest flashpoint of standoff between the Indian and Chinese troops where soldiers from the two sides clashed in Ladakh on August 15, Army troopers are holding military exercises a few kilometers from the Chang La Pass at an altitude of 14,000 feet.
On the 224-km journey from Leh to Pangong, there has been a regular movement of troops and vehicles. The Chang La Pass is the second highest motorable road in the world at 17,668 km.
At around 8.30 am on August 15, troops of the 23 Sikh regiment hoisted the tri-colour at the giant Pangong Lake. The flag hoisting event ended with the national anthem as the handful of troops headed back to their camp on the banks of the 134-km lake. Chinese troops indulged in stone pelting after Indian soldiers prevented the People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers from crossing the Line of Control in the Pangong Tso (Lake) area. The ensuing stone pelting and clashes between the two forces left several Indian troops injured.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a soldier said, "This should not have happened. But at least we are prepared."
In the wake of such a confrontational atmosphere, the salt water lake strategically sandwiched between the Himalayas presents a picture of calm. DS Hooda, former commander of the Northern Army, said, "The region requires both brain and brawn. With oxygen depleting fast in the region, soldiers need to think quickly to handle the situation in the heat of the moment. A shouting match between the troops can otherwise end up in a shooting match and a bloodbath. The training, thus, is of extreme importance and the situation needs to be handled sensibly."
The PLA troops "tried to enter the Indian side from two areas - Finger Four and Finger Five - twice between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m." on our Independence Day, but these incursion bids were successfully thwarted by the Indian border patrols. A local said, "We saw nothing, but we see the boats on the banks move. We hope nothing happens here, like in Chusul (another area of conflict)."
Tensions at the border are palpable as Army troops and vehicles take the crucial arterial road to Pangong. Both the Army and ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) have been tight-lipped. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has so far rejected overtures of peace by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Home Minister Rajnath Singh over the Doklam stand-off, which has not shown any signs of abating, despite attempts of peace by India. China is, on the other hand, escalating the issue, by further expanding its intrusion attempts into Pangong. Speaking to India Today, Defence expert and Major General (retired) PK Sehgal said, "China has an important election coming up, which is important for President's ego. Chinese is rejecting all the overtures by India."
India and China share an over-4,000 km-long LAC (Line of Actual Control). China claims approximately 90,000 sq km of territory in Arunachal Pradesh besides 38,000 sq km in the Jammu and Kashmir sector. The recent visit of President Ramnath Kovind and Army chief Bipin Rawat to Ladakh is being seen as more than mere symbolism and a certain boost to the security forces' morale.
Another Defence expert Qamar Agha said, "Incursions in the entire region are taking place with Chinese PLA troops being deployed in crucial areas, as a result of which India has been forced to deploy its forces. There is already intense speculation both in India and China over whether PM Modi will attend the ninth BRICS Summit, scheduled to be held in Xiamen in China's Fujian province from September 3-5. But experts are of the view that PM Modi's visit could ultimately hold the trump card.