India-China Border Row: After disengagement at Pangong Tso, Defense Ministry focuses on other friction points

As per reports, disengagement between PLA and the Indian Army began at Pangong Tso, LAC on Wednesday, however, certain questions were being raised by opposition leaders and media houses about other friction points where tensions were still high, in response to this, defenese ministry on Friday released a statement regarding Depsang & other points of Friction between PLA & Indian Army.

By Harkirpal Singh, Updated : Feb 13, 2021 17:54 IST
India-China Border Row: After disengagement at Pangong Tso, Defense Ministry focuses on other friction points
Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Anurag Srivastava

According to reports, This was the first official mention of Depsang by the Union Government, Depsang lies south of Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) in a strategic area that the military calls Sub-Sector North, as a friction point after border tensions began last May.

'Outstanding problems with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) at Depsang, Hot Springs, and Gogra — friction points on the contested border in eastern Ladakh — will be tackled after full disengagement between rival soldiers in the Pangong Tso area, where mutual withdrawal of front-line troops is underway.", the defense ministry said on Friday.

The outstanding issues related to deployment and patrolling at the three friction points will be taken up within 48 hours of the pullback of troops deployed on strategic heights on the north and south banks of Pangong Tso, the ministry said in a statement.

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Disengagement is progressing smoothly in the Pangong Tso area and it could be over in two weeks after which talks would focus on the other friction points, people familiar with the developments said on Friday.

“Both sides on Friday withdrew more troops from the area for the third straight day. Armoured and artillery elements retreated to their respective positions from heights on the south bank on Thursday. Infantry is now being pulled back,” said one of the officials cited above, asking not to be named.

The focus will shift to Depsang, Hot Springs, and Gogra after Pangong Tso.PLA’s deployments in Depsang have hindered access of Indian soldiers to routes including the ones leading to Patrolling Points (PP) 10, 11, 11-A, 12, and 13.

The Indian Army’s patrolling activity has also been affected in Gogra and Hot Springs, where rival troops are forward deployed and where skeletal disengagement took place last year, but the gains could not be consolidated.

Addressing a press conference, Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi said that Indian troops will now be stationed at Finger 3 while Finger 4 used to Indian territory. In response to this, Defense Ministry Replied “The assertion that Indian territory is up to Finger 4 is categorically false. The territory of India is as depicted by the map of India and includes more than 43,000sq km currently under illegal occupation of China since 1962.”.

According to various defense sources, before PLA grabbed positions on Finger 4, the Indian Army would patrol right up to Finger 8 that New Delhi considers within Indian territory. The new positions held by the PLA curtailed the scope of Indian patrols. Fingers 4 and 8 are 8km apart. The Indian claim line in this sector extends to Finger 8, while the Chinese claim is up to Finger 4.

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The spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Anurag Srivastava responded to questions on why India had agreed to a buffer zone in the area between Finger 4 and Finger 8 by saying that the defense ministry’s statement had set the record straight on “wrongly understood information.”

The defense ministry statement said the government had reposed full faith in the armed forces for safeguarding India’s interests and territory in eastern Ladakh.“Those who doubt the achievements made possible by the sacrifices of our military personnel are actually disrespecting them,” it added.

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