Tempers are running high in the Chushul sector in eastern Ladakh, where both Indian and Chinese troops are on maximum alert. After India occupied crucial heights in Chushul, which can give the forces an advantage over the People's Liberation Army (PLA) on southern bank of the lake, brigadier-level talks between two sides are underway. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will chair a meeting with the three service chiefs and NSA Ajit Doval to take stock of the situation. India's covert Special Frontier Force (SFF), which has a large number of refugees from Tibet, played a crucial role in the latest scuffle in Ladakh along LAC.
"But, Indian forces are gearing themselves for more such action all along the 3,800km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de-facto border with China. Indian forces are strengthening their positions and could attempt counter-incursions in areas on advantage on Chinese side," said a senior official in the South Block privy to the developments.
It is notable that, last week, the Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat had indicated "military options" to tackle situation on Ladakh borders. Indian intelligence agencies picked up the movement of over 200 PLA troops, who were trying to transgress on the southern bank of Pangong Tso. Indian forces thwarted the PLA move to change status quo in the area by deploying its specialised troops from the SFF. Black Top territory was occupied by Chinese in 1962 war, and has been under Chinese control since then. But, the PLA has since moved huge number of troops in the area to make inroads into Indian territories.
"Unlike previous undetected attempts of incursions, this time, we have surprised China," a South Block mandarin claimed. Sources maintained that, on the stretch between Pangong Tso and Spanggur Tso, troops from the Xinjiang military district of PLA were deployed in sizeable numbers, well-stocked and with logistics to stay for long periods.
This time, however, the Indian side was well-prepared and reacted fast to occupy certain nearby heights, but the incident has exposed the Chinese plan to open new fronts along the LAC. A senior official said that, while talks to de-escalate is on between the two countries, China made attempts to occupy positions that were not heavily guarded. Both sides have prepared for a long haul during the winter.
Besides permanent shelters and optic fibre cables, bridges were built over streams and rivulets for faster movement of troops. The Indian military has also made preparations to take on Chinese PLA's aggression with additional infrastructure and large-scale deployment of troops. The IAF has also moved sizeable number of frontline jets and attack helicopters to counter any offensive by the Chinese. An official claimed that in September and October, right before the winter, Chinese military planners might think of an offensive, similar to the 1962 war.
Disengagement has taken place in Galwan and Hot Spring area, and buffer zones were also created to avoid clashes in future. But, in the Depsang plains, the Chinese have amassed huge number of troops along with artillery, which can turn into new flashpoints.
Meanwhile, Ji Rong, spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, in response to Saturday's incident said that : "On August 31, Indian troops violated the consensus reached in previous multi-level engagements and negotiations between China and India, illegally trespassed the Line of Actual Control again at the southern bank of the Pangong Tso Lake and near the Reqin Pass in the western sector of China-India border, and conducted flagrant provocations which again stirred tension in the border areas."
He said that India’s move has grossly violated China's territorial sovereignty, seriously violated relevant agreements, protocols and important consensus reached between the two countries, and severely damaged peace and tranquility along the China-India border areas. "What India has done runs counter to the efforts made by both sides for a period of time to ease and cool down the situation on the ground, and China is resolutely opposed to this," Ji Rong said, while adding that China has made solemn representations to the Indian side, urged the Indian side to strictly control and restrain its frontline troops, earnestly honor its commitments, immediately stop all the provocative actions, immediately withdraw its troops illegally trespassing the LAC, immediately stop any actions leading to the escalation and complication of the situation.