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Pangong Tso – The Centre of Dispute between India and China.

Pangong Tso – The Centre of Dispute between India and China.

In news:

The conflicts between India and China in Ladakh are centered around the Pangong Tso lake, Galwan valley and Demchok , making it a very important aspect of the border dispute between the two countries.

Why the conflict:

The disputed border between the two nations goes right through the middle of the lake, with both nations disputing how much of the lake the other gets.

Pangong lake

  • In the Ladakhi language, Pangong means extensive concavity, and Tso is lake in Tibetan.
  • Pangong Tso is a long narrowdeep, endorheic (landlocked) lake situated at a height of more than 14,000 ft in the Ladakh Himalayas.
  • As things stand, a 45 km-long western portion of the lake is in Indian control, while the rest is under China’s control. 

Disputed boundaries:

  • The disputed boundary between India and China, is known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
  • It is divided into three sectors: western, middle and eastern.
  • The countries disagree on the exact location of the LAC in various areas.
  • India claims that the LAC is 3,488 km long while the Chinese believe it to be around 2,000 km long
Line of Actual Control (LAC) is a line drawn through Kashmir. It is where the two powers stood when the ceasefire was announced and agreed by China and India following the Sino-Indian War.  

Western sector:

  • The Johnson Line (1865) shows Aksai Chin in Jammu and Kashmir, i.e. under the jurisdiction of India, while the McDonald Line (proposed in 1893) positions it in China.  
  • India considers Johnson Line to be the correct, legitimate national border with China, while China considers the McDonald Line to be the correct one.  
  • Middle sector:
  • The states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have border with Tibet (China).There isn’t much conflict here.  

Eastern sector – McMahon Line:

  • The Mcmahon line is an agreed boundary between Tibet and India, signed by Britain and Tibet in Simla in 1914.  
  • It is from the eastern limit of Bhutan to a point near the Talu Pass at the trijunction of Tibet, India and Myanmar.
  • China considers the McMahon Line to be unacceptable and illegal.

Tactical significance of the lake:

  • It lies in the path of the Chushul approach, one of the main approaches that China can use for an offensive into Indian-held territory.
  • If a major Chinese offensive comes, it will flow across both the north and south of the lake.( 1962 war).
  • Connectivity in the region:
  • Over the years, the Chinese have built motorable roads along their banks of the Pangong Tso.
  • In 1999, when the Army unit from the area was moved to Kargil for Operation Vijay, China took the opportunity to build 5 km of road inside Indian Territory along the lake’s bank. 
  • From one of these roads, Chinese positions physically overlook Indian positions on the northern tip of the Pangong Tso lake.

Confrontation on the water:

  • On the water, the Chinese had a major advantage until a few years ago — their superior boats could literally run circles around the Indian boats.
  • But India purchased better Tampa boats some eight years ago, leading to a quicker and more aggressive response.
  • The drill for the boats is agreed upon by the two sides, as per the Standard Operating Procedure.

Road ahead:

  • Proper security protocol should be followed along the border. 
  • Confidence building measures and border personnel meetings should be carried out regularly. .
  • Hotlines of communication should be established and used effectively. 
  • Under the Wuhan Summit (2018) “strategic guidance” to the respective militaries to strengthen communications along the border was meant to be issued. This should be followed.

Source: ”Indian Express “.

Possible UPSC CSE Mains Question:

Highlight the major border issues between India and China. What kind of measures is effective in resolving such border disputes amicably?