China has moved back close to 10,000 troops from the Ladakh border as the winter peaked in the region. However, frontline positions remain fully manned by Indian and Chinese troops along contentious points on the Line of Actual Control.
Sources said that PLA moved troops deployed in depth areas by over 100 km into Tibetan territory as scope for any operations have diminished due to the harsh winter and heavy snow. India has maintained a matching deployment in Eastern Ladakh to counter the unprovoked Chinese buildup.
Officials said that high alert remains on the border as PLA has the ability to quickly deploy troops forward, given infrastructure developed in Tibet. They also said that both sides are maintaining troop levels at all flashpoints, especially along the Pangong Lake.
India had occupied key positions along the southern bank of the lake in late August to thwart Chinese designs and there has been no reduction of troops in the area. Sources said that the Chinese pull back was necessary as keeping over 50,000 troops at snowbound high altitudes was untenable.
However, the situation along the border remains tense as both sides have kept tanks, artillery guns and armoured personnel carriers ready along the border. “The area is witnessing temperatures below – 40 degrees. In such conditions there is almost no scope for military manoeuvres as even equipment fail to function,” officials said.
India and China had deployed 50,000 troops each on the Ladakh border after the PLA initiated aggressive movements last April. Initially surprised by the unprovoked Chinese buildup, carried out in the garb of an annual military exercise, the Army and IAF quickly moved to match the move by rushing in troops and equipment to flashpoints in Eastern Ladakh.
The deadly clash at Galwan in which both sides lost soldiers hardened the Indian position, with clear instructions given to troops that lethal force would be used to repel any attempts to intrude on territory by the PLA. In its annual report, the ministry of defence has said that the Indian Army is well entrenched to take on any misadventures by the PLA. It also placed the blame for border tensions firmly on the PLA’s expansionist ambitions.