Now, at least on one particular stretch along the unresolved 4,057-km Line of Actual Control (LAC), Indian soldiers can finally cock a snook at Chinese troops after years of being aggressively needled. Indian soldiers are armed with spanking new high-tech QRT (quick-reaction team) boats to patrol the highly-picturesque but equally-contentious Pangong Tso (Tso means lake in Ladakhi) in eastern Ladakh, which has emerged as a major flashpoint between the world’s largest and second-largest armies over the last decade.
Located at an altitude of 13,900-feet across the Changla Pass, Pangong Tso has also become a major tourist destination in recent years after the finale of Aamir Khan blockbuster “3 Idiots” was shot there. But the sheer tranquillity of the 134-km-long lake, two-thirds of which is controlled by China as it extends from Tibet to India, cannot hide the strategic game underway there. Equipped with over 20 well-armed boats, People’s Liberation Army troops have been virtually running circles around Indian troops handicapped by slow, outdated vessels. In the past, Chinese boats have even disabled Indian boats by ramming into them.
“Now, we have received 11 of the 17 QRT boats, each of which can carry 16 to 18 soldiers, ordered from the US. With these high-speed interceptor boats, fitted with
radars, infra-red and GPS systems, we can do robust reconnaissance and area domination patrols,” said an officer. “If the Chinese come one km into our territory, we can go three km into theirs. Earlier, apart from some smaller vessels, we had only a couple of large speed boats, mounted with machine guns and capable of carrying 10 soldiers,” he added.
As earlier reported by TOI, Chinese troops have notched up over 550 “transgressions” into Indian territory in all the three sectors — western (Ladakh), middle (Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh) and eastern (Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh) — of the LAC just since January, 2010. Eastern Ladakh has borne the brunt of this “increasingly assertive” behaviour by China. The strategically-located Pangong Tso, the largest brackish water lake in Asia, itself records close to 100 “transgressions” of foot, motorised and boat patrols by PLA every year. The region became an even bigger flashpoint when, during the 1999
Kargil conflict with Pakistan, China even constructed a “track” right up to the lake’s southern bank.
The QRT boats in Pangong Tso are part of India’s belated overall efforts to build military assets and infrastructure along the LAC to strategically counter China, which now has five full-fledged airbases, an extensive rail network and over 58,000-km of roads in Tibetan Autonomous Region.
News source: TimesofIndia