Amidst top officials of both China and India reaching a five-point consensus to disengage troops from the highly contested border in Eastern Ladakh, according to a senior official, Beijing has been blocking access to 10 patrolling points (PP) for the Indian troops in the region.
A senior government official, while speaking to The Hindu, an Indian publication, said there were at least 10 patrolling points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) ranging from the Depsang plains in the north to the Pangong Tso Lake in the south of the region that have been blocked by the Chinese troops.
The Patrolling points are the endpoints identified and marked along the undefined LAC, which are patrolled by security forces with a stipulated frequency while starting off from their respective base camps.
The points serve as a guide to the de-facto border’s location and act as indicators for the extent of “actual control” exercised by Indian troops, who patrol them regularly in a bid to assert India’s claim about the LAC.
While there are more than 65 patrolling points from the base of Karakoram Mountain range to the border patrol facility of Chumar, the Indian troops have been blocked from accessing PPs number 9, 10, 11, 12, 12A, 13, 14, 15, 17, 17A since April of this year.
Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, while addressing the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian Parliament, said that the interruption in the patrolling of Indian soldiers by their Chinese counterparts is the cause of the face-off between the two nations.
“Since the LAC is undefined, the PPs are the best way to assert territorial claims. With that access blocked by the Chinese and as per the disengagement plans in the past few months when buffer zones were created, many areas have become out of bound for the Indian troops as of now.” Singh said while noting an overlap in the LAC’s perception in several areas.
Singh highlighted the difference between Beijing’s promises of actions and its actual actions and said that while India wants a peaceful solution to the border tussle with China, it will not back away from taking any action required to defend its sovereignty.
“No power in the world can stop us from carrying out patrolling. Our soldiers gave their life fighting for this right.” said Rajnath
Former Indian Defence Minister and senior leader of the opposition Congress Party, AK Antony stressed on how the Galwan Valley was never disputed and the Indian soldiers should be allowed to patrol all points.
“The Army and ITBP should be allowed to patrol to all points,” he said.
Moreover, a top security official brought a new perspective to the ongoing border situation and said that while there has been no loss of ground in the conflict, the Indian troops have not had access to a large share of their territory of the de-facto border for “more than 10 to 15 years”.
While speaking to The Indian Express, the official said that the Indian troops have not had access to the area around Depsang Plains, where the Line of Patrolling lies considerably beyond its perception of the LAC, spanning around 972 square kilometres.
“We used to go up to those patrolling points, he (the PLA) is stopping us from going to the patrolling points,” the official said. “We have not really lost anything in this round of encounters,” he added.
The official also noted how Indian Army’s focus is fixed on Beijing despite there being repeated ceasefires on the Pakistani side of the border due to China’s ability to push for more territory along other regions along the contested LAC.
“We expect that China can act anywhere, why talk about just eastern Ladakh. We are looking at Eastern Command also.” said the official.