In a recent action, Bharatiya forces have occupied certain heights at Finger 4 of Pangong Tso. Since April-May this year, China had assumed a threatening posture on the Line of Actual Control with Bharat. It had opened up four fronts at the LAC and occupied certain areas that threatened Bharatiya positions. These four fronts were at Galwan valley, Depsang plains, Chushul area and the fingers area in Pangong Tso. Bharatiya forces showed their valour at Galwan in June, 2020 and forced the Chinese to go back.
On the night of 29/30 August, Special Frontier Forces occupied areas to the south of Pangong Tso, which included some important heights. Now Bharatiya forces are in a dominating position and can easily target Chinese positions with accurate fire from these heights in case there is war. They now also dominate the Spanggur Gap, a pass that leads to Chushul and could have been used by Chinese to enter Bharat.
Now it has come to light that in a separate operation, specialized units of Bharatiya armed forces also occupied certain ridges of finger 4 on the northern bank of Pangong Tso. With this Bharatiya forces are now in a much better position than they were merely a week ago.
The fingers of Pangong Tso
Pangong Tso is a salt water lake in eastern Ladakh and extends into Tibet. The narrow water body with maximum width of 5 KM and length of 134 KM is a strategic feature in Ladakh. China and Bharat both maintain heavy military presence on its shores and since April-May this year has seen the deployment of ever higher amount of men and military equipment.
The LAC passes through the lake and divides it into two parts. The northern bank of the lake has many ridges, which look like small peninsulas, that reach into the body of water like fingers. These fingers were not occupied by any country and were patrolled by Bharat as well as China. This year China occupied heights at the fingers 4 to 8 and stopped Bharatiya patrols to go beyond finger 4 at Pangong Tso and thus asserting its claim on area between finger 4 to finger 8.
The lake is important as it provides a route for Chinese to attack Chushul on the south of it. Indeed, in 1962 Chinese attacked from both banks of the lake and Bharatiya army bravely defended both the banks. In the north 28 men of 8 Gorkha under Major Dhan Singh Thapa inflicted heavy casualties on the 600 advancing Chinese. Of these men, only 4 men survived. On the south of the lake, the famous battle of Rezang La was fought in which the Ahirs of 13 Kumaon, led by Major Shaitan Singh made a valiant last stand in which 114 soldiers out of 120 were killed, but inflicted at least 10 times the casualties on Chinese. Both Thapa and Singh were awarded Param Veer Chakra.
Ramifications of deployment on heights
Bharat has redeployed its troops to heights in the finger 4 area in latest action. According to reports, Bharatiya and Chinese forces face each other at the heights. This was a necessary step as Bharatiya forces on ground could have done little against enemy at the heights.
Indeed similar thinking had guided us to occupy Siachin heights in 1984. Although the economic and human cost of occupation is very high, its value in the event of a two front war with China and Pakistan is acknowledged by the defence experts. The occupation of heights by forces on LAC at other places is also a possibility now as the same may prove very effective in countering Chinese intrusions.
There was a certain delay in occupation of these heights. It might be explained by the time taken to build up stength at the border by Bharatiya forces. The Bharatiya forces also tried to solve the issue by talks first but Chinese side showed no interest in talks at first.
The occupation of these heights has forced the Chinese to ask for talks. Chinese govt had to issue multiple statements in a day. Clearly, Bharat is in a much better bargain position now than it was in August. In case of China, the show of hard power is the only thing that is respected.
It remains to be seen how much China concedes at the table and if and when Bharatiya forces take further action to liberate Bharatiya territory from occupation of China. One thing is certain, the winter of this year is going to be long and tense for both countries.
Map from OpenStreet Map contributors. Some illustrations by HinduPost.
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