Even as the world struggles to contain the crisis caused by the novel coronavirus, India is facing another challenge -- Indian and Chinese troops appear to be heading towards a face-off in several disputed areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh.
The Indian army has increased its strength in Pangong Tso and Galwan Valley -- the two contentious areas where the Chinese army is learnt to have been deploying around troops besides gradually enhancing temporary infrastructure. Indian troops are resorting to "aggressive patrolling" in several sensitive areas including Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldi.
Here are a few basic issues you need to know:
- Over the past 10 days, China has built a stranglehold on a large part of the Galwan valley which includes a portion of Ladakh region. Chinese troops have entered 3-4 kms into Indian territory. The Galway valley was an area of stiff standoff during the 1962 war with China. This is China's first attempt to make alterations on this part of the Line of Actual Control since the sixties.
- India has moved a large number of its troops to the disturbed area to counter Chinese movement in an area which is above 14,000 feet.
- Not a single bullet has been fired as per the agreement between India and China. Border altercations are usually limited to fist and elbow fights. But this time, there are reports of sticks and iron rods being used.
- Observers feel China is preparing the ground to lay claim on a portion of Ladakh and make it a difficult international issue for India.
- By most accounts, 5,000 to 10,000 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army have dug in the ravine area with the military building makeshift arrangements for settling the troops and use of heavy military equipment.
- Most estimates suggest that China is making preparations to settle the troops inside Indian territory to claim ownership of the entire Galwan valley including a portion of Ladakh. The Galwan river flows from the disputed Aksai Chin region, which India’s claims as its own, to Xinjian region in China before entering Ladakh.
- The new Chinese occupation is a big challenge as it will make it extremely difficult for the Indian army to service and support its troops deployed in Sub Sector North area close to the crucial Karakorum Pass.
- The Chinese action is seen as a reaction to India’s decision to split Jammu & Kashmir state to create Ladakh as an independent Union Territory. China has earlier taken up the issue at the United Nations saying the decision is interference in its own territory. India and China are involved in a dispute over Aksai Chin, a largely barren area extending from Ladakh to the Xinjiang region of China.