Indian Army’s top commander recently said that the India-China border stand-off would have turned into a full-blown war when the Indian Army had occupied the strategic Kailash range heights in late August 2020.
The “easiest thing would have been to pull the trigger after seeing them in the cross-hairs of the telescopic sights”, but utmost restraint was maintained, he said.
Lt General Y.K Joshi told media that since the Chinese People’s Liberation Army had also moved its tanks up the heights and the Indian troops were also sitting on top with tanks and rocket launchers, the “easiest thing would have been to pull the trigger after seeing them in the cross-hairs of the telescopic sights”, but utmost restraint was maintained.
In August 2020, the Indian Army had occupied the strategically-important and disputed Rechin La, also known as the Reqin Pass, in the western sector of the China-India border, overlooking a crucial Chinese camp at Moldo.
The troops were stationed atop a ridgeline that extends from south of Pangong Tso to Spanggur Tso going through Chushul-Rezang La and extending to the Requin Pass. Other hilltops occupied by the Indian Army were Magar Hill and Gurung Hill, which were unoccupied since the 1962 India-China war.
Indian experts had pointed out that occupying the high ground did not only have an advantage in the mountains but holding on to two tactically advantageous positions in the Chushul Valley provided India greater leverage.
However, as part of the disengagement agreement, Indian and Chinese infantry soldiers have begun withdrawing troops from the Kailash Range, south of the Pangong Tso. Satellite images have confirmed that both Indian and Chinese troops have withdrawn from the Pangong Tso.
Satellite images of #PangongTso's north shore present evidence of the disengagement agreement reached between #India & #China, visuals show land vacated by the PLA troops near the face off area of finger 4 pic.twitter.com/bw5aDL57fp
— d-atis☠️ (@detresfa_) February 16, 2021
Satellite images via MAXAR of #PangongTso compared between 30 Jan 2021 & 16 Feb 2021 show #China dismantling its military camps at the finger areas, part of its designment deal with #India pic.twitter.com/2jaECTLmHO
— d-atis☠️ (@detresfa_) February 17, 2021
The Pangong Tso has been one of the main friction points between India and China in the nine-month-long stand-off. It is for the first time in a faceoff with the PLA at Line of Actual Control in any sector that “the agreement has been put in writing, ratified by higher headquarters and then put into action”.
The Northern Army Commander told The Indian Express that the purpose of occupying the heights along Kailash Range on the southern bank of Pangong Tso was achieved with the disengagement on the northern bank of the lake.
He revealed that the initially PLA did not agree to vacate the area between Finger 4 and Finger 8 but capturing the most dominating features of the Rechin La-Rezang La complex on the Kailash Range forced China to negotiate according to India’s terms.
As per the report, Joshi said: “We occupied (those heights) with a purpose to push the negotiations to disengagement. It was meant to give us an advantage, but it cannot be an advantage in perpetuity. We achieved what we wished to achieve, namely the disengagement in the north bank.”
The Northern Army commander’s remark seemed aimed at countering the criticism by some analysts over India’s withdrawal troops from the strategic heights as they had given a better position to India.
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said in Moscow on February 17 that disengagement of Indian and Chinese troops at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh is expected to be concluded in the next two to three days.