Ladakh scuffle: Amid Doklam standoff in Sikkim sector, India-China relation has become further tensed over an alleged scuffle between Indian and Chinese soldiers on the banks on Pangong lake in Ladakh. A video of the alleged scuffle was also posted by Lt Gen Prakash Katoch (retd) on August 19. However, its content has not yet been officially confirmed. The incident reportedly happened on the morning of August 15. According to PTI, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying on Monday said the incident happened when Chinese border troops were conducting normal patrol on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) around the Lake area on August 15. “During this process, the Indian side took some violent actions and injured the Chinese border personnel,” she claimed.
India said the incident was discussed by local army commanders of both sides. However, this is not the first such incident reported from the banks of Pangong lake, which China considers important for its interest. Here’s what we know about the lake and why it is significant:
- Pangong means extensive concavity in Ladakhi language, while Tso means lake in Tibetan. Pangong Tso is a long narrow, deep, landlocked lake located at a height of over 14,000-feet in the Ladakh Himalaya and around 1300-km west of Sikkim.
- The lake is around 135-km long and spread over 604 square kilometre in the shape of a boomerang. It is also around 6 km wide at its broadest point. The lake remains frozen in winter but ideal for skating and polo.
- It is believed that 19th century Dogra general Zorawar Singh trained his soldiers and horses on the frozen Pangong lake before invading Tibet.
- The Line of Actual Control between India and China passes through the lake. However, both countries have not yet agreed on the exact location of the LAC.This is also a cause of contest between the two countries.
- During India’s 1999 Kargil war against Pakistan, China built a 5-km long road inside the Indian territory, while the Indian troops were moved to Kashmir.
- At present, India controls around 45-km long western part of the lake and the rest is controlled by China, according to IE. Armies of both countries have clashed in past in the disputed portion of the lake.
- The lake is located in the way of Chusul approach, which China can use for an attack on Indian territory. According to IE, India has assessed that China’s offensive, if launched, would flow across both northern and southern parts of the lake.
- In 1962, China had launched its main attack here, while the Indian army fought bravely at Rezang La, a mountain pass on southeastern approach to Chusul valley. At this location, Ahir Company of 13 Kumaon led by Major Shaitan Singh made its last stand, according to IE. This was also filmed in Haqeeqat, a 1964 war film by Chetan Anand starring Balraj Sahni and Dharmendra.
- Dhan Singh Thapa post, named after Param Vir Chakra awardee Major Dhan Singh Thapa, is located in the north of the lake.
- China has built motorable roads along their banks of the lake. The importance China assigns to this region can be judged from the fact that a massive to-scale model of the disputed area has been created at People’s Liberation Army’s Huangyangtan base at Minningzhen, southwest of China.
- The Pangong lake was made famous in the climax scene of Aamir Khan’s ‘3 Idiots’. Incidentally, the film was a big hit in China as well. However, tourists visiting Ladakh are allowed to go only around 7 kilometre in the lake, up to Spangmik village. Until 1999, no tourists were allowed visit Pangong Tso, according to IE, and even today a visitor needs Inner Line Permit from the office of the Deputy Commissioner at Leh.
- Both armies have also confronted each other on the waters of the lake in past.