Holding Back PLA At Depsang Crucial

1 min read

Ajay Banerjee
Some four weeks ago an important Division of the Indian Army had started acclimatising for high-altitude warfare and two weeks later, parts of it were deployed at the 18,000-foot-high Depsang plains, a plateau located north of the Galwan valley along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh.

The June 22 meeting of senior military commanders of India and China spoke of mutual disengagement, which, in reality, can take months to implement. At Depsang this can take the longest and be the toughest to implement. Military objectives of either country are far too important at Depsang than those at the north bank of Pangong Tso, Galwan valley, or Gogra Hot Springs, explained an official.

The LAC at Depsang is disputed by both sides, which have vastly varying perceptions of the alignment. The area has seen two major standoffs in 2013 and 2014 besides dozens of faceoffs annually when troops come face-to-face while patrolling.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China is gathered in big numbers at a place called “Bottleneck” which is 25 km southeast of the strategic airfield in Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), located at 16,700 feet. The DBO is just 20 km south of the 18,176-ft-high Karakoram pass, which divides Ladakh and Xinjiang in China.

The Indian Army has, in the past, war-gamed a scenario about the PLA making a westward thrust in Depsang plains. The defensive positions have been “militarily tailored” to hold back the PLA with tanks, artillery guns, and the latest systems besides additional troops.

On the Indian side, the PLA’s military objectives could be to threaten a section of the 255 km Darbuk-Shayok-DBO (DSDBO) road, attempt to cut off the DBO sector, which could restrict access to the Karakoram pass and a bid to seize the 20,000-ft-high Saser La, which is to the west of Depsang. It further opens a route to Sasoma and crucially the road to Siachen. All these attempts by the PLA can be thwarted, for now, explained an official.

The DSDBO road is a key stretch for this strategic northern-most corner of India – termed sub-sector north (SSN) by the military. The road runs through a treacherous terrain where oxygen is rare. The small village of Shayok, comprising just 25 families, is the last Indian village on this route. (TNS)

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