China reportedly triples its boats in India’s Pangong Tso Lake as tensions continue to rise

Representative image: Army Scout Masters CompetitionIndian Army

  • Tensions along the India-China border in Ladakh’s Pangong Tso Lake are getting worse.
  • Sources told the Indian Express that China has tripled the number of patrol boats in the area.
  • The report claims that China’s People Liberation Army (PLA) is also contesting new construction of infrastructure and roads in Ladakh.
The Pangong Tso lake — the world’s highest saltwater lake at a height of 4,350 metres — in eastern Ladakh continues to be at the centre of tensions between China and India. Chinese troops have tripled the number of patrol boats in the area to match the number of the boats that India has as its disposal along the 45-kilometre western end of the lake, according to the Indian Express.

It reports that nearly one-third of the Chinese transgressions along the 134-kilometre portion of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh happen specifically in Pangong Tso. “Not only have they substantially increased the number of boats on the lake, but their patrolling behaviour is also increasingly more aggressive. It is not a healthy thing when you consider what has been going on in the Finger Area since late April,” sources said.


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The development comes after Chinese Media organisation, Global Times, reported that Chinese troops were merely bolstering their defence measures in response to India’s “illegal” construction of defence facilities in the Galwan Valley.

The larger pattern of aggressive behaviour
The “Finger Area” is outlined by the mountains which jut out along the northern bank. While India claims that the LAC lies along Finger 8, China puts it at Finger 2. The altercation which occurred between both sides on May 5 was near Finger 5.

At its widest, the lake is 5 kilometres wide — keeping open space is limited — which makes face-offs between both sides in the region quite common. However, actual physical confrontations are rare — which makes the incident from two-weeks ago a point of concern.

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“There is a larger pattern that the Chinese are becoming more assertive in pursuing their territorial claims in contested areas, that is happening both in the South China Sea and along the India China border,” Ashok Kantha, the Ambassador to China from 2014 to 2016 told The Hindu.

India’s building more roads and the Chinese don’t like it
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is also challenging India’s new construction in the mountainous region. In February 2019, Border Roads Organisation (BRO) chief Lieutenant General Harpal Singh told the press that it plans to complete all 61 strategic roads projects along the country’s northern border with India by 2022. This includes the 250-kilometre long Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie road in Ladakh that is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

The road was originally conceived in 1999 for the Indian Army to evict Pakistan’s Army during the Kargil War and is now divided between China and India. The Chinese Army patrols it using light vehicles while Indian soldiers patrol on foot.

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Things tend to get contentious when two come face to face. “The Chinese road is rather narrow and has very few turning points. So, when our patrols challenge their patrols and ask them to back from our area, they physically cannot turn their vehicles, leading to more acrimony.” sourced told Indian Express.

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