Explained: What is the importance of Ladakh’s Pangong Tso south bank?

  • Pangong Tso is an endorheic lake (landlocked) that is partly in India’s Ladakh region and partly in Tibet.
  • One-third of the endorheic lake lies in India and the other two-thirds in China.
  • An endorheic basin (also an endorheic basin or endorheic basin) is a limited drainage basin that normally retains water and allows no outflow to other external bodies of water.
  • The Karakoram Mountain range, which crosses Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and India, with heights of over 6,000 metres including K2, the world’s second-highest peak, ends at the north bank of Pangong Tso.
  • It is the world’s highest saltwater lake.
  • Pangong Tso is also known to change colours, appearing blue, green and red at different times of a day.
  • ‘Fingers’ in the region refers to the spurs which extend to the banks of the high-altitude Pangong Lake.
  • India believes it has the right to patrol from ‘Finger 1’ to ‘Finger 8’ while China believes it has rights to patrol from ‘Finger 8’ to ‘Finger 4’.
  • Indians need to obtain an Inner Line Permit for visiting this place.
  • Foreign nationals visiting this place are required to obtain a Protected Area Permit if they want to travel from Leh to Pangong Lake.

Who controls Pangong Tso?

  • Nearly two-thirds of the lake is controlled by China, with just about 45 km under Indian control. The LAC, running north-south, cuts the western part of the lake, aligned east-west.
  • But India and China have unsettled borders, and the perception of the LAC differs in multiple sectors, including on Pangong Tso.
  • The Lake falls on the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control.
  • By itself, the lake does not have major tactical significance. But 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.
  • Indian assessments show that a major Chinese offensive if it comes, will flow across both the north and south of the lake.
  • During the 1962 war, this was where China launched its main offensive — the Indian Army fought heroically at Rezang La, the mountain pass on the southeastern approach to Chushul valley, where the Ahir Company of 13 Kumaon led by Maj. Shaitan Singh made its last stand.
  • Militaries of the two sides regularly hold Border Personnel Meeting at five points — Daulat Beg Oldie in northern Ladakh, Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh, Chusul in Ladakh, Bum-La near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh and Nathu-La in Sikkim to resolve boundary related issues.

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