With the Indian Army now occupying key positions on heights, its ability to thwart a Chinese attempt to ingress through the gap has increased significantly

Over the last few days, the Indian Army has taken multiple steps towards improving its strategic and tactical position in eastern Ladakh, particularly in the Pangong Lake area and the Chushul sector.

Much of this began on the intervening night of 29 August and 30 August, when the Indian Army and commandos from the Special Frontier Force captured heights overlooking Chinese positions south of the Pangong Lake.

China has been visibly irritated by these developments and its inability to push the Indian Army back from the tactically advantageous positions it has taken.

Here are five such moves that seem to be rattling China no end.

One, the Indian Army has managed to reach dominating heights on the ridgeline of Finger 4 on the northern bank of Pangong Lake.

In early May, China had occupied an area between Finger 4 and Finger 8 on the north bank of the lake, and had taken position on the Finger 4 ridgeline. Before May, the area between Finger 4 and Finger 8 was claimed and patrolled by both sides.

Currently, reports say, Indian troops hold positions which overlook Chinese camps. This will give India a significant tactical advantage in the event of hostilities.

Two, Indian troops have pushed back all Chinese attempts to take heights and Indian territory. In one such case at Mukhpari, one of the heights taken by India, around 20 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army armed with spears tried to intimidate and evict Indian army personnel, resulting in a close-quarter standoff.

In another case, this report by Economic Times says the PLA tried to send its light tanks into Indian territory across the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The Indian Army managed to push back the Chinese thrust, the report adds.

PLA tanks “were blocked by larger Indian Army tanks that have been deployed as tensions shot up,” the daily’s report reads.

India has conveyed to China that attempts to breach perimeter around its posts, composed of barbed wire in many cases, will be treated as an act of hostility.

Three, India has strengthened its position at Rechin La, one of the places where the Chinese have tried to push Indian troops back. Rechin La is located south-east of the Spanggur Lake (shown in the map below as Requin La).

Requin La is tactically important as it is very close to the south bank of the Spanggur Gap. Chinese positions are spread all along the south bank of the lake. A road linking these posts with the Spanggur Gap at one end and the Tibet-Xinjiang Highwayat at the other (in Rutog, Tibet), also runs along the south bank.

India, journalist and defence analyst Nitin Gokhale says, has deployed tanks around Requin La to deter the Chinese troops.

India has “managed to drive up tanks at Richin La in broad daylight that Sunday evening surprising the Chinese,” he writes.

Four, India has taken Magar Hill and Gurung Hill, heights north and south of the Spanggur Gap respectively. This, along with presence on other heights in the region, gives India the ability to monitor all Chinese movements.

The Spanggur Gap opens into the Chushul Valley. The Indian Army has long believed that China, in the event of hostilities or war, can try to launch an offensive towards Chushul through the Spanggur Gap. The flat approach from the gap towards Chushul and the southern bank of the Pangong Lake makes the use of mechanised infantry and armour (tanks) possible in such an attack.

Indian and Chinese tanks, multiple reports say, are “stationed within firing distance of each other” near the gap. Both sides have also brought in thousands of troops along with artillery guns and other equipment to the area.

With the Indian Army now occupying positions on heights, its ability to thwart a Chinese attempt to ingress through the gap has increased significantly.