In talks, China takes hard line, claims all of Galwan Valley, chunk of Pangong Tso - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 12 June 2020

In talks, China takes hard line, claims all of Galwan Valley, chunk of Pangong Tso

 The eastern Ladakh confrontation (map courtesy: The Wire)

By Ajai Shukla
Published in The Wire:
10th June 20

Three days after Indian and Chinese military commanders met on Saturday at Chushul, in Ladakh, to discuss the crisis caused by the occupation by thousands of Chinese soldiers of territory traditionally patrolled by both armies, top army sources in New Delhi sought to portray a rapidly improving situation.

Claiming that both sides – the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Indian Army – have “retreated a bit” after the Saturday meeting, the army sources revealed that another Sino-Indian meeting would be held on Wednesday at a more junior level.

However, sources on the ground paint a far bleaker picture of Chinese intransigence along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). They say that, during the talks, the PLA interlocuters flatly rejected the Indian demand for Chinese troops to withdraw from areas they occupied in May and restore the status quo that prevailed in April.

In fact, during the military-to-military dialogue on Saturday, China flatly refused to even discuss its intrusions into the Galwan River valley, instead claiming ownership over the entire area.

Underlining these sharp divergences between the Indian and Chinese positions, no joint statement was released after Lieutenant General Harinder Singh, the Leh corps commander, met PLA Major General Liu Lin, who heads the South Xinjiang Military Region in a bid to defuse the confrontation.

Nor did New Delhi release any details about the military discussions. Only on Tuesday, after being sharply criticised by opposition members, including Rahul Gandhi of the Congress Party, did “top army sources” present the media with the military’s version of events.

According to their version, the Indian and Chinese corps commanders met one-on-one for almost three hours before engaging further during delegate-level talks. The two sides “mutually agreed and identified five locations of conflicts” between PLA and Indian troops. These include Patrolling Point 14 (PP14), PP15, PP17, the north bank of Pangong Tso Lake and Chushul.

The fact that these conflict locations make no mention of the Galwan River valley lends credence to the argument that the sector did not feature on the discussion agenda.

Galwan River valley

During the talks, the PLA indicated they were taking control of the Galwan River valley, which has traditionally been a peaceful sector where China adhered to a claim line. Now PLA negotiators have asserted ownership of the entire Galwan Valley, claiming that China had controlled the hilltops astride the Galwan River for “as long as they could remember.”
The PLA alleged that the one-kilometre-long track that India had built from the Shyok-Galwan river junction, heading eastwards along the Galwan River, was an encroachment on Chinese territory. They alleged that India was developing this track into a metal (black-topped) road.

The Indian army representatives countered that the Chinese had constructed a metal road right to where the LAC had existed up till May – that is five kilometres from where the Galwan flows into the Shyok river – and that the road would soon cross the LAC. The Chinese responded that the Galwan Valley was their area and it was legitimate for them to build a road in it.

Indian negotiators also objected strongly to PLA troops deploying in the close vicinity of India’s Gogra post. Sources say the PLA did not offer a cogent response.

Nor was there a cogent PLA response to Indian allegations that the Chinese were constructing a road on India’s side of the LAC between Hot Springs and Gogra.

Pangong Tso area

Responding to Indian charges of Chinese intrusions onto the Pangong Tso north bank, the PLA negotiators claimed they had “acted rightfully” in constructing a metalled road up to Finger 4, and preparing defensive positions in that disputed area. 

Prior to May, Indian army regularly patrolled till their perceived LAC at Finger 8, eight kilometres east of Finger 4. However, since May 5, when thousands of PLA troops blocked and savagely beat up outnumbered Indian troops in that area, Indian patrols are unable to go beyond Finger 4, which the Chinese now claim is the LAC.

The Chinese military officials accepted that the aggression with which PLA soldiers attacked Indian troops at the Pangong Tso in mid-May “was not in the right spirit,” but said it was a reaction to Indian patrols crossing the PLA’s version of the LAC.

The Indian army also brought up the need to reduce forward deployments of PLA soldiers, armoured vehicles and artillery guns. The Chinese responded they would have to refer the matter to their superiors.

Gains and losses

Army sources apprehend the PLA has gained strategically in the Galwan Valley, where they now occupy positions overlooking the strategic Darbuk-Shyok-Daulet Beg Old (DSDBO) road to Depsang, at the base of the Karakoram Pass. 

The Chinese have also gained strategically by isolating the Depsang area, as a consequence of dominating the DSDBO road. There is currently a large Chinese armour build up opposite Depsang, which is raising apprehensions of surprise ingress in that sector by the PLA. 

Chinese gains in the Pangong Tso area, however, are being seen as tactical, even though the levels of violence the PLA displayed there is worrisome.

The other PLA activities at Naku La (Sikkim) and at Harsil and Lipu Lekh (Uttarakhand) are being viewed as “red herrings”, aimed at tying down Indian troops rather than serving any larger strategic objectives.

The army is also closely watching the long border between Arunachal Pradesh and Tibet, which is called the McMahon Line. This has been entirely quiet so far, with no Chinese activity in this area.

On Wednesday, Indian army sources provided a military-political perspective to the on-going PLA intrusions. “The core issue is the undecided LAC. Until that is solved, these episodes and issues will continue to happen,” they stated.

Also to blame, according to the army sources, was the PLA’s militarization of the border areas. “China has deployed fighter bombers, rocket forces, air defence radars, jammers, etcetera. India has also deployed all its major assets along the LAC… just a few kilometres away from the frontline. India will continue to have major build up until China withdraws the build up [it has] done there,” they said.


  1. Deeply worrying that the Chinese have sprung a surprise and managed to perch themselves right on to the strategically important DSDBO road at Galwan River and Depsang. Hugely disappointing that we were naive enough to not make defensive arrangements before building this vital road. And amazing that we were stupid enough to make belligerent noises in Parliament about re-taking Aksai Chin shortly after revoking Article 370, when in fact we did nothing to even prepare to defend what we do control, let alone talk of Aksai Chin. Looks like it is going to come down to a fight. If we do nothing and let them take Galwan Valley, then it will embolden them no end and we will regret it enormously.

  2. Only way is to put pressure on China using Free Tibet motive.

  3. Rafale coming and area will be vacated

  4. Mr.Shukla really appreciate how you present facts without noise and nonsense..have been a fan of yours since you started to appear on NDTV debates wrt your unbiased perspective on situation in Kashmir.Keep up the good work!

  5. What are the role embacies playing with these issues at hand? What is the use of military personal meeting; when the decisions are somewhere else? To me it looks like beating around the bushes. If Chinese military is doing what they think is right then Indian military should be authorised to do what is right for India. We have learned many lessions from past. Why should we trust China at all!

  6. Chinese should be pushed back from every inch of Indian territory if talks fail.

    1. Our politicians dont have stomach for blood and War. Our Generals dont want anything to jeopardise their daily round of golf and heavily subsidized scotch in the evening in their Club.

  7. India should put pressure on Sri Lanka,Nepal and Pakistan to show it's muscles. It should be a warning to China. The only way to strengthen is to occupy territories of those countries.which will be lesson to them.

  8. India's long term objective should be to create unrest both in Xinxiang and Tibet beyond China's capability.Weaken China from within.Military objectives could be best known to military commanders but one could be could be to dominate highway connecting Tibet and Xinxiang. India should create atmosphere at international level against China in these two autonomous regions.

  9. Modi ji,how china has made upperhand in present play Tibet card to regain our lost territory. India will get support from countries opposing China who are raping india and each time we sought the help of doctor for abortion. Why india ca'nt rape China.Govt is telling lie so our military/MEA.we are defending while China is poking us since 1962

  10. The Indians still do not get it ! They thought they had fobbed and conned the Chinese PLA in dubious border talks !

    Sample the statements of these clowns just 2-3 days ago ~

    Statement 1 Indian COAS says - All is well along the ENTIRE border"situation%20along%20our%20borders,China)%20have%20will%20be%20set

    Statement 2 - Raj poot Rajnath Singh says India is not a weak nation

    This is after the Sino-India Talks attended by a Lt Gen Harinder Singh Ponga and a PLA MAJOR GENERAL.Note the rank differential !

    Next day - Indians gloating - although PLA took over 50 kms of Indian land ! A donkey never learns from history !

    And then this !

    1 Commanding Officer and 2 soldiers killed !

    1 Commanding Officer is also killed ! Ever heard of a king being killed in a battle w/o weapons ? Indian Monkeys say that their leaders fight from the front - and get killed w/o weapons !!

    Just like with the Mughals - the Hindoos Kings were on top of an Elephant at the front - so that the Turkic archer could kill the moron - and the battle was over !

    Beauty is - no arms were used !

    No arms !

    That is why I say - Indians are a race of weasels and cowards ! What will happen when arms are used ?

    There is 1 more beauty ! The men were killed BEFORE the statement of the COAS and Rajpoot Rajnath Singh.

    Ladakh is sacred to the Chinese ! Which is Y the PLA has also kidnapped some soldiers ! KID-NAP-PED !

    India should give up Ladakh ! What can India do in Ladakh or for Ladakh ?

    Chinese raped India 2000 years ago.

    The Chinese King who raped India , was from the Yueh Chi tribe.He then tried to conquer China,through India - he was raped and killed !

    Then the Sikhs tried to invade Tibet - they were raped and killed.ZORA SINGH WAS KILLED ON THE BATTLEFIELD.

    The Current Northern Army Commander who was negotiating with the PLA is also a SIKH.

    The Sikhs forget that their glorious victories under Ranjit Singh - were under the Military genius of French and American Generals - hired from the Napoleonic wars.

    Then there is the 1962 rape !

    Now there will be rape from the West and East.

    This is the time for the Chinese to strike - and the target is well chosen.South China and Taiwan can wait - as there are many US carriers and warships in that area.

    No one can aid India in Ladakh.No One.dindooohindoo

    After Chaiwala collapses - whole of South East Asia will fall in line - especially Vietnam.Even the Japanese think India will save them.What is wrong with the Japs ?

    India is in the year of destruction !


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