When Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong claimed that both the countries have “disengaged at most of the friction points”, beliefs that both nations will now come down with a commitment for “friendly relations” has blurred. Ground realities of Chinese expansionism are visible with the People’s Liberation Army being mobilised near the Lipulekh Pass.
Though the PLA has disengaged from patrolling points 14 (Galwan), 15-16 (Hot Springs), a handful of adversary troops are still on forward location at patrolling point 17 A (Gogra) and withdrawal from all contested finger features is a distance away at the Pangong Tso. At Lipulekh Pass, approximately 1000 PLA soldiers’ presence has been observed.
What is the importance of Lipulekh Pass?
Lipulekh Pass made it to the headlines in the last few months after Nepal objected to a 80-km road built India to the Himalayan pass. Falling on the Mansarovar Yatra route, Lipulekh Pass is used for annual barter trade during June-October between tribal populations living on either side of the Indo-China LAC.
Nepal escalated tensions with India last month after it changed its political map to count the Kalapani area including Lipulekh – which lies close to the tri-junction of India-China-Nepal – as Nepalian territory.
What does movement of PLA across LAC signale?
Going the words of an army officer, “It is a signal that the Chinese troops are prepared,”.
“The situation on the Line of Actual Control remains dynamic with the PLA trying to emphasise its presence beyond Ladakh building infrastructure on their side of the LAC,” the top military commander quoted above said.
What counter-measures has Indian Army adopted?
In the entire Ladakh region (primarily LAC), the constant troop movement and mistrust has made the army prepare to deploy soldiers at icy heights even during winters irrespective of how the disengagement and de-escalation efforts pan out. After the PLA aggression and Galwan valley incident, it is difficult to keep eyes off from Chinese troops. The Indian army speculates that Chinese troops may return to Pangong Tso as 2021 summer arrives. To be prepared for such a situation, the government has asked its embassies in US, Russia and Europe to locate manufacturers of high-altitude clothing and snow tent manufacturers for emergency purchases. If resources still fall short, the plan B is to divert stocks from locations such as Thoise, the base station for soldiers deployed in Siachen Glacier.
Meanwhile, former Army chief General (retd) VP Malik, in a Twitter post, said,