India-China standoff: Talks collapse! Here’s what went wrong

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Updated: October 12, 2021 4:52 PM

According to reports, the Chinese PLA has traditionally had a major base east of Kongka La, which lies to the west of China’s G219 highway connecting Tibet and Xinjiang – which are the two most sensitive provinces.

The responsibility of the border in Ladakh was handed over to the Indian Army following an incident at Kongka La. (Representational image)

India and China during the recently concluded 13th round of Corps Commander level talks were hoping to conclude an agreement on Hot Springs, which is one of the last friction points.

This friction point — Hot Springs is located in the Chang Chenmo river valley, close to Kongka La which is a pass marking the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Hot Springs which is to the Southeast of Galwan Valley is the area where clashes between the militaries of both countries had taken place in 2020.

China is not keen on pulling back its platoon sized unit from Hot Springs. This means that the situation is not going to normalize anytime soon.

According to reports, the Chinese PLA has traditionally had a major base east of Kongka La, which lies to the west of China’s G219 highway connecting Tibet and Xinjiang – which are the two most sensitive provinces.

The responsibility of the border in Ladakh was handed over to the Indian Army following an incident at Kongka La. On October 10, 1959, just before the 1962 Indo-China war, the Chinese side detained three members of the Indian police patrol team at Kongka La. The next day a team of 20 personnel which was led by a Deputy Superintendent of Police set out to find the three members who had not returned.

More about the incident

Nine members of the search party were killed and the rest were arrested by the Chinese side. The Chinese side had treated them very harshly.

What had happened?

As 16 out of the 20 personnel moved towards the Chang Chenmo River, they were attacked by the Chinese troops with hand grenades, rifles, and mortars. During the clash the Chinese side lost just one soldier and following this incident, the government handed over the western sector to the Army on October 24, 1959.

When the 1962 war had started, the Chinese side attacked Hot Springs, though it was not among the sectors that witnessed heavy fighting. Before the war, until 1960, China had used a company which was stationed at Kongka La and Hot Springs. And by 1962, the Chinese increased it to a regiment level in the Hot Springs area.

At that time India had a platoon with around 30 soldiers at Hot Springs. Soon after the Chinese attack on India’s position in Galwan Valley, attention turned to the Hot Springs and Chang Chenmo valley. Once the Chinese side started shelling and amidst fear that Indian soldiers would be cut off, the Army decided to pull back from the Hot Springs.

When the Indian soldiers tried to move back first to Tsogatsalu, and later to Phobrang, along the Chang Chenmo River, all Indian soldiers suffered chilblains and frostbite.

What happens now with the talks failing?

This will impact the de-escalation. There are 50,000 troops each from India and China sides, as well as air defence assets, artillery guns and tanks.

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