In a further escalation of the ongoing military confrontation between India and China in eastern Ladakh, the Chinese People Liberation Army carried out "provocative military movements" to "unilaterally" change the status quo on the southern bank of Pangong Tso but the attempt was thwarted by the Indian troops.
According to officers, Indian Intelligence agencies had picked up noise of Chinese movement towards the Southern Bank of Pangong Tso in Ladakh and troops were moved to occupy the locations that the Chinese wanted to ingress to change the ground situation from the previous consensus arrived at during military and diplomatic engagements.
An officer said there was no violent clash as such between the rival troops, and hence, there was no question of injuries or casualties, denying early reports of injuries on both sides. By fending off the Chinese movement towards Southern Bank, the troops, he said, have averted what has happened in Northern Bank, where Chinese soldiers have “come in” into territory that India perceives as its own.
Chinese troops had physically occupied an almost 8-km stretch of what India considers its territory on the north bank of Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh after clashes in May and also created massive signage in the area to claim it as Chinese land. PLA soldiers had built dozens of fortifications, prefabricated huts, bunkers and pill-boxes after occupying the ‘Finger-4 to 8’ area on the north bank of Pangong Tso in a massive consolidation since early-May. India says the LAC is at Finger 8 and soldiers have for long been patrolling west to east till this point.
A brigade commander level flag meeting is currently in progress at Chushul to resolve the issues arising out of the fresh incident, Army Spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand.
In a statement issued earlier in the day, Colonel Anand said that, PLA troops violated the previous consensus on the night of 29/30 August and carried out provocative military movements to change the status quo. "Indian troops pre-empted this PLA activity on the Southern Bank of Pangong Tso Lake, undertook measures to strengthen our positions and thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change facts on ground," the Army spokesperson said.
It is the first major incident involving the troops of the two countries after the Galwan Valley clashes on June 15 in which 20 Indian Army personnel were killed. China also suffered casualties but it is yet to make the details public but according to an American intelligence report it was 35.
India and China have held several rounds of military and diplomatic talks in the last two-and-half months but no significant headway has been made for a resolution to the border row in eastern Ladakh. The two sides began a process of disengagement on July 6, a day after a telephonic conversation between National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on ways to bring down tensions in eastern Ladakh. However, the process has not moved forward since mid-July.
The PLA has pulled back from Galwan Valley and certain other friction points but the withdrawal of troops has not moved forward in Pangong Tso, Depsang and a couple of other areas. At the five rounds of Corps commander-level talks, the Indian side has been insisting on complete disengagement of Chinese troops at the earliest, and immediate restoration of status quo ante in all areas of eastern Ladakh prior to April.