Chinese troops carried out aggressive moves to change the status quo on the South Bank of Pangong Tso and the attempts had been thwarted n an escalation of the ongoing standoff on the border in Ladakh, , the Army said. The PLA troops violated the previous consensus arrived at during military and diplomatic engagements during the ongoing standoff in Eastern Ladakh. The Indian troops preempted this PLA activity on the Southern Bank of the Pangong Tso Lake and undertook measures to strengthen the positions and thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change facts on ground.
Pangong Tso Lake
While the Pangong Lake has been among the most contentious sectors in the ongoing military standoff in eastern Ladakh for nearly four months now, the activity until now had been restricted to the northern bank. Made popular by the Hindi film 3 Idiots, Pangong Tso is an endorheic lake (landlocked) that is partly in India’s Ladakh region and partly in Tibet. The name reflects the mixed heritage of the lake: Pangong in Ladakhi means extensive concavity, the word Tso is Tibetan for lake.
Situated at an elevation of about 4,270 m, it is a nearly 135-km long, narrow lake — 6 km at its widest point — and shaped like a boomerang. Its total area is over 600 sq km. The Karakoram Mountain range, which crosses Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and India, with heights of over 6,000 metres including K2, the world’s second highest peak, ends at the north bank of Pangong Tso. Its southern bank too has high broken mountains sloping towards Spangur Lake in the south. The lake’s water, while crystal clear, is brackish, making it undrinkable. The lake freezes during the winter, allowing some vehicular movement on it as well.
Nearly two-thirds of the lake is controlled by China, with just about 45 km under Indian control. The LAC, running north-south, cuts the western part of the lake, aligned east-west. But India and China have unsettled borders, and the perception of the LAC differs in multiple sectors, including on Pangong Tso. At the lake’s north bank, according to India, the international boundary is close to Khurnak Fort, a 19th-century ruin. But the LAC, according to India, is around 15 km west. On the north bank are spurs that jut into the lake, identified as fingers. India says the LAC passes through Finger 8; China claims it is farther west.
Compared to the north bank, the difference in perception of the LAC is not very wide in the south bank. A former brigade commander from the region said the perception may differ by 100 to 200 m, and lacks prominent features like fingers. These “differing perceptions of the LAC”, as the Army has called it, are one of the main causes of face-offs.