On Monday, after a top military commander level meeting between India and China in eastern Ladakh over the intense standoff, both countries had arrived at a consensus to “disengage” from all friction points.
However, as China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that the meeting “showed that the two sides wish to control and alleviate the situation through dialogue and consultation”, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has had a massive troop build-up along the border in Ladakh, reported Business Standard. “Indian planners assess the Chinese have stepped up their forces by at least 30 per cent since June 15, along the Ladakh frontier,” the report claimed.
Since 15 June, when at least twenty Indian army personnel were killed in the violent faceoff with the PLA in Galwan Valley, China has “inducted large numbers of troops, armoured vehicles, and artillery along the LAC – from Depsang and Galwan in northern Ladakh to Hot Springs, Pangong Tso, and Chushul in central Ladakh, to Demchok and Chumar in southern Ladakh,” added the report, quoting unnamed well-informed government source.
India claimed that both the sides suffered casualties, however, none were confirmed by China.
Instead of Indian patrols having traditionally patrolled here up to Patrolling Point (PP) 10, 11, 12, and 13, China, who have built tracks bypassing these PPs and extending 15 to 17 kilometres into Indian-claimed territory, as per the report, is now stopping them.
After the last Monday meeting, India had termed the incident as a “premeditated and planned action” by the Chinese troops. “There was a mutual consensus to disengage. Modalities for disengagement from all friction areas in eastern Ladakh were discussed and will be taken forward by both the sides,” an unnamed source told a news agency, Press Trust of India.
The Indian side also suggested bringing down the number of troops by both sides in their rear bases along the Line of Actual Control, the 3,500 km de-facto border, they said.
Although, in the Galwan Valley, the Chinese have established a camp about a kilometer west from the Indian side of the LAC near PP-14, where the deadliest clash between the armies in the last four decades occurred.
“The Indian Army currently has no camps or posts in the Galwan River valley, with both sides having agreed to demilitarise the valley,” wrote Ajai Shukla in the report. “Controversially, India has agreed to a 5-7-km deep ‘no-man’s land’ on the Indian side of the LAC.”
Meanwhile, at PP-15, which is 25 kilometers south of PP-14, the Chinese have entered about 2 kilometers inside the Indian side of the LAC and have constructed two tracks on Indian-claimed territory, sources told the newspaper.
While there is no Chinese ingress at PP16, the confrontation continues in the Hot Springs sector, which includes PP17 (called the Gogra Heights), PP18, and PP19 (called Kongka La). Further south, the Chinese are strengthening their defensive positions on the north bank of the Pangong Tso, having ingressed 8 km from Finger 8 to Finger 4.
Indian planners, therefore, face the worrisome prospect of a dual threat to northern Ladakh. The Chinese move towards the Galwan-Shyok river junction is a pressure point for the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi road, while the PLA’s advance into the Depsang Plain at the Jeevan Nullah and Raki Nullah could choke India’s access to Karakoram Pass at two more points.