India-China border standoff: Here’s why Chushul sub-sector is crucial

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September 9, 2020 5:07 PM

Chushul Valley is situated close to the LAC, standing at an altitude of over 13,000 feet.

Chushul acts as a gateway to Leh.Chushul acts as a gateway to Leh. (Representative image)

India-China standoff: After the movement that took place on the intervening night of August 29 and 30, the sub-sector of Chushul has emerged as a focus point in the ongoing standoff between the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA troops. Here’s why the sub-sector is important.

The Chushul sub-sector is located in eastern part of Ladakh, south of Pangong Tso. The sub-sector consists of broken, high mountains, and includes heights like Black Top, Gurung Hill, Helmet Top, Magger Hill and Thatung, along with passes like Rechin La and Rezang La. Apart from that, the Spanggur Gap and the Chushul Valley also form part of the sub-sector, according to a report in IE.

The report stated that the Chushul Valley is situated close to the LAC, standing at an altitude of over 13,000 feet. It has a vital airstrip, the report added, and the airstrip had also played a highly crucial role in the 1962 Indo-China war.

Due to its location, Chushul is among the five Border Personnel Meeting points between the People’s Liberation Army of China (PLA) and the Indian Army. Regular interactions between the representatives of the two armies are conducted here, and the recent brigade-level meetings between India and China were conducted at Chushul itself.

Chushul sub-sector: Strategic importance

Chushul, due to its terrain and location, is a centre for deployment of logistics, and is, therefore, of strategic and tactical importance to India. The sub-sector consists of plains having a width of a couple of kilometres, making it ideal for the deployment of mechanised forces including tanks. Further operational advantages are added by the road connectivity to Leh and the airstrip it consists of. The ridgeline in the sub-sector has now been secured by the Indian troops, allowing them to dominate the Chushul bowl on India’s side as well as the Moldo Sector falling on the Chinese side.

The troops also have a clear view of the Spanggur gap, which is two kilometres wide. This gives them an advantage, since in the 1962 War, China had used this gap to launch attacks on the Chushul sector.

The report quoted co-author of ‘1962: A View from the Other Side of the Hill’, Major General (Retd) GG Dwivedi as saying that the securing of the ridgeline has led to India having military as well as strategic advantage, adding that once this ridgeline is secured, the force is completely deployed with all its equipment. Gen Dwivedi added that with this move, India has negated the advantage gained by China by securing the areas between Finger 4 and Finger 8 on Pangong Tso’s northern bank. He further said that the Indian domination of the ridgeline in Chushul has given India a “bargaining chip” in the negotiations for disengagement of troops.

Chushul’s importance to China

The report stated that in simple terms, Chushul acts as a gateway to Leh, and if China was able to enter Chushul, it would be in a position to launch its operations for Leh.

Chinese attempt to capture Chushul in 1962

After China had launched its initial attacks on the Indian side, including in the Galwan Valley, in October 1962, the PLA was also preparing to attack the airfield and the valley in Chushul in order to get direct access to Leh. However, the report stated, just before the attacks, in November 1962, Chushul was reinforced by the 114 Brigade. The Brigade was also commanding two troops of armour and some artillery.

The heights that the Indian troops secured at the end of August, are the ones that they held back in 1962, the report stated, including Magger Hill, Lukung, Gurung Hill, Spanggur Gap, Thatung Heights and Rezang La.

In 1962, these units were held by troops including 1 Jat, 13 Kumaon, 5 Jat and 1/8 Gorkha Rifles. The war saw outstanding performance by Indian side, where at Rezang La, the Charlie Company of 13 Kumaon witnessed a loss of 114 of its 120 soldiers, and the Commander of the Company Maj Shaitan Singh was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra for gallantry.

The Rezang La and Gurung Hill fell to the Chinese troops after the fight, following which the brigade pulled its troops back to the heights from where they could give a better response to the enemy. However, a ceasefire was declared and the next attacks never came. The primary task of the brigade was achieved at the cost of 140 casualties, against over 1,000 soldiers that China lost.

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