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Coordinated disengagement at Pangong Tso

Topics Covered: India and its neighbourhood- relations.

Coordinated disengagement at Pangong Tso:


Context:

India and China have reached an agreement on disengagement in the Pangong lake area to cease their forward deployments in a phased, coordinated and verified manner.

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As per the agreement:

  • The Chinese side will keep its troop presence in the North Bank area to east of Finger 8.
  • Reciprocally, the Indian troops will be based at their permanent base at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3.
  • A similar action would be taken in the South Bank area by both sides.
  • Any structures that had been built by both sides since April 2020 will be removed and the landforms restored.
  • Both sides have agreed on a temporary moratorium on military activities in the North Bank, including patrolling in the traditional areas.

standoff

Why there is a dispute here?

The Line of Actual Control (LAC) – the line that separates Indian and Chinese troops since 1962 – generally runs along the land except for the width of Pangong Tso. Here, it runs through water.

  • Both sides have marked their areas announcing which side belongs to which country.
  • India controls about 45 km stretch of the Pangong Tso and China the rest.

The lake is divided into sections called fingers:

There are eight of them in contention here. India and China have different understanding of where the LAC passes through.

  • India has maintained that the LAC passes through Finger 8, which has been the site of the final military post of China.
  • India has been patrolling the area – mostly on foot because of the nature of the terrain – up to Finger 8. But Indian forces have not had active control beyond Finger 4.
  • China, on the other hand, says the LAC passes through Finger 2. It has been patrolling up to Finger 4- mostly in light vehicles, and at times up to Finger 2.

Why China wants to encroach areas alongside Pangong Tso?

  • Pangong Tso is strategically crucial as it is very close to Chusul Valley, which was one of the battlefronts between India and China during the 1962 war.
  • China also does not want India to boost its infrastructure anywhere near the LAC. China fears it threatens its occupation of Aksai Chin and Lhasa-Kashgar highway.
  • Any threat to this highway also puts Chinese rather imperialist plans in Pakistan-occupied territories in Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir, and beyond in Pakistan.

About Pangong Tso:

  • Pangong Tso literally translates into a “conclave lake”.
  • Situated at over 14,000 feet, the Lake is about 135 km long.
  • It is formed from Tethys geosyncline.
  • The Karakoram Mountain range ends at the north bank of Pangong Tso. Its southern bank too has high broken mountains sloping towards Spangur Lake in the south.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is LoC and how is it established, geographical extent and significance?
  2. What is LAC?
  3. Where is Nathu la?
  4. Where is Pangong Tso?
  5. Who administers Akashi Chin?
  6. Where is Naku La?
  7. Who controls what in Pangong Tso lake region?

Mains Link:

Discuss the significance of Pangong Tso for India and China.

Sources: the Hindu.