A day after a 11-hour border meeting between senior military commanders of India and China, Beijing has welcomed an agreement to “cool down the situation”.
It said it would continue holding talks “for peace and tranquillity” along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Describing the meeting, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) spokesperson said: “This meeting showed that the two sides wish to control and alleviate the situation through dialogue and consultation.”
Beijing flatly rejected the contention of Union Minister General V K Singh (retired) that more than 40 Chinese soldiers had been killed in the Ladakh face-off. “I can tell you for sure this is fake news,” said the MFA spokesperson.
Accompanying Beijing’s talk of “dialogue and consultation”, however, is a massive Chinese troop build-up along the border in Ladakh.
Since the June 15 clash, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has inducted large numbers of troops, armoured vehicles, and artillery along the LAC – from Depsang and Galwan in northern Ladakh to Hot Springs, Pangong Tso, and Chushul in central Ladakh, to Demchok and Chumar in southern Ladakh, said a well-informed government source.
Indian planners assess the Chinese have stepped up their forces by at least 30 per cent since June 15, along the Ladakh frontier.
In northern Ladakh, the PLA has activated the Depsang Area, north of Galwan, where both sides had faced off earlier in 2013.
Indian patrols have traditionally patrolled here up to Patrolling Point (PP) 10, 11, 12, and 13. Now they are being stopped by the Chinese, who have built tracks bypassing these PPs and extending 15-17 kilometres (km) into Indian-claimed territory.
This includes advancing deeper into Indian territory at Jeevan Nullah (PP13) and ongoing attempts to cross the so-called bottleneck area on Raki Nullah (PP12).
In the Galwan Valley, the Chinese have established a camp about 1 km inside the Indian side (west) of the LAC near PP14, where the June 15 clash occurred.
The Indian Army currently has no camps or posts in the Galwan River valley, with both sides having agreed to demilitarise the valley. Controversially, India has agreed to a 5-7-km deep “no-man’s land” on the Indian side of the LAC.
While Indian troops are patrolling close to PP14, Chinese patrols are visiting the heights along the Galwan River, especially those closer to the LAC.
Meanwhile, at PP15, which is 25 km south of PP14, the Chinese have entered about 2 km inside the Indian side of the LAC and have constructed two tracks on Indian-claimed territory, say sources.
While there is no Chinese ingress at PP16, the confrontation continues in the Hot Springs sector, which includes PP17 (called the Gogra Heights), PP18, and PP19 (called Kongka La).
Further south, the Chinese are strengthening their defensive positions on the north bank of the Pangong Tso, having ingressed 8 km from Finger 8 to Finger 4.
Indian planners, therefore, face the worrisome prospect of a dual threat to northern Ladakh. The Chinese move towards the Galwan-Shyok river junction is a pressure point for the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi road, while the PLA’s advance into the Depsang Plain at the Jeevan Nullah and Raki Nullah could choke India’s access to Karakoram Pass at two more points.