As tensions soared at the LAC, with Indian Army announcing that it had taken measures to consolidate their position and thwart Chinese intentions to change the status quo in the Pangong Tso region in Ladakh, a ‘stormy’ Brigade-Commander level Flag meeting took place in Ladakh's Chushul on Monday, 31 August.
While some reports claim that there was “no contact, no scuffle, and no engagement” between the Indian and the Chinese troops, other reports said that there were, in fact, injuries.
Here’s what we know so far:
What Happened on 31 August?
WHAT MEA SAYS:
On Tuesday, NSA Ajit Doval along with top officials including the three service chiefs reviewed the situation at LAC. According to ThePrint, the review meeting was chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, and attended by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat, the three service chiefs and the Director General of Military Operations. According to the report, the meeting involved a detailed briefing on the situation in Ladakh, and a discussion of possible scenarios.
Later, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said:
- China violated diplomatic channels and “engaged in provocative military maneuvers in the late night of 29th and on 30th August in an attempt to change the status quo in the South Bank area of Pangong Lake.”
- As stated yesterday by Indian Army, the Indian side responded to these provocative actions and took appropriate defensive measures along the LAC in order to safeguard our interests and defend the territorial integrity, according to MEA.
- The Ministry further said, “On 31st August, even as the ground commanders of the two sides were in discussions to de-escalate the situation, the Chinese troops again engaged in provocative action. Due to the timely defensive action, the Indian side was able to prevent these attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo.”
- “We have taken up the matter of recent provocative and aggressive actions with Chinese side through both diplomatic and military channels and have urged them to discipline and control their frontline troops from undertaking such provocative actions,” he said.
- He added, “The Indian side is firmly committed to resolve all outstanding issues along the LAC in the Western Sector through peaceful dialogue.”
WHAT CHINA SAYS:
- The Chinese authorities have said that the Indian Army "illegally crossed" the Line of Actual Control on Monday. Referring to it as a "provocative move that violated the previous consensus", China has asked the Indian side to withdraw its forces, according to Senior Colonel Zhang Shuili, spokesman for the PLA Western Theater Command. [CGTN]
- Chinese Foreign Ministry has rejected claims that Chinese border troops tried to carry out fresh violations along the border. [Global Times]
- Chinese Embassy in India, in a statement, said that "Indian troops illegally trespassed LAC again". It further said that “China has made solemn representations” to India and urged India to “strictly control and restrain its frontline troops”. China asked India to immediately withdraw troops and put an end to any actions leading to escalation. [Chinese Embassy]
WHAT MEDIA REPORTS SAY:
- Indian officials, on their part, maintained that the deployments in Chushul sub-sector were well within its perception of LAC and the reason troops were moved forward was to avoid a situation like the Finger Area where PLA created defences by violating border protocol. [Economic Times/Manu Pubby]
- On Saturday night, the Indian Army detected movement of around 300 soldiers belonging to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), with equipment for construction of fortifications near 'Black Top’, a strategic feature in the Chushul subsector that overlooks Indian posts along the southern bank of the Pangong Tso lake.[Economic Times/Manu Pubby]
- 'Black Top' is well within Indian perception of the LAC. The Indian forces were, therefore, mobilised from nearby posts to occupy heights in the area and stall the Chinese movement towards the southern bank of the lake. [Economic Times/Manu Pubby]
- The Indian Army reportedly then stalled a possible Chinese advancement in the area, additional troops have been posted to Rezang La and Reqin La in Chushul and a regiment of T-90 tanks been moved to the vulnerable Spanggur Pass. [Economic Times/Manu Pubby]
- The movement of hundreds of Chinese soldiers, who crossed into the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), occupied a mountain called Helmet Top and began building fortifications, was testimony to the failure of three months of military and diplomatic dialogue in persuading Beijing to withdraw its troops from Eastern Ladakh. [Business Standard/Ajai Shukla]
- Government sources have said that physical clashes took place after Indian soldiers from nearby Thakung post intervened, in a bid to prevent the PLA from building defence. [Business Standard/Ajai Shukla]
- Sources have informed that the PLA now occupies Helmet Top, as well as nearly Black Top, both of which are on the Indian side of the LAC. “From here, Chinese soldiers can observe and track Indian movements across the Pangong lake and as far away as India’s tactically vital Chushul garrison.” [Business Standard/Ajai Shukla]
- Indian officials are keeping silent about a counter operation, launched on Sunday night by soldiers of a secretive Indian commando force called the Special Frontier Force (SFF). The SFF detachment is reported to have occupied key heights that China claims as their own. [Business Standard/Ajai Shukla]
- While there are different accounts of what transpired, according to one source the SFF detachment clashed with and inflicted casualties on the Chinese troops. One Tibetan SFF officer was reportedly killed and at least two injured in the operation. [Business Standard/Ajai Shukla]
- On the north bank of the Pangong lake, the PLA has shifted the LAC to its advantage by about eight kilometres, from Finger 8 to Finger 4. [Business Standard/Ajai Shukla]
- The Chinese are holding snugly on to their advantageous positions in the Hot Spring – Gogra area, despite an agreed withdrawal plan. [Business Standard/Ajai Shukla]
- The Chinese have identified Reqin, a valley, as being under the control of the Indian Army. By dominating the feature along its side and traversing the ridge, Indian Army soldiers could dominate the Chinese posts in Spanggur. India would be nearly 4 kms inside. [Twitter/Vishnu Som]
- A 3 km ridgeline on the hill alongside Reqin leads straight to a position that dominates Spanggur. [Twitter/Vishnu Som]
- "The Chinese had planned to capture these heights, which would have given them an advantage. In such terrain, anyone who has the heights holds the upper hand,” a source reportedly told Th Print. PLA, however, has denied any such plan. [The Print/Snehesh Alex Philip]
- The Indian Army, now having control over the heights, has also moved in additional troops, who have been brought in from the reserve columns that were deployed in eastern Ladakh after the standoff with China began in early May. [The Print/Snehesh Alex Philip]
- Despite the fact that formal talks between India and China have not made any progress since July, China continues its military consolidation along the LAC, through construction of new heliports and surface-to-air missiles sites, among other things. [The Print/Snehesh Alex Philip]