Importance of Pangong Tso Lake

source: tribuneindia

Pangong Tso is a lake located at a high altitude, over 14,000 feet. It is about 135 km long and is formed from a geological feature called the Tethys geosyncline. The lake's water is clear but not suitable for drinking.

The Line of Actual Control (LAC) separates Indian and Chinese troops, but in the case of Pangong Tso, the LAC runs through the water instead of the land. India controls around 45 km of the lake, while China controls the remaining portion.

The disputed area around Pangong Tso has mountain spurs known as "fingers." There are eight fingers in contention, and India and China have different interpretations of where the LAC passes through. India believes it passes through Finger 8, while China claims it passes through Finger 2.

China's interest in encroaching on areas near Pangong Tso is due to its strategic significance. The lake is close to the Chusul Valley, which was a battleground between India and China during the 1962 war. By gaining control over Pangong Tso, China can have a strategic advantage over the Chusul Valley and limit India's freedom of movement in the region.

Recent Developments

  • India has begun widening its Char Dham Highway following approval from the Supreme Court. This highway is important as it allows quick mobilization of Indian military and paramilitary forces to the Sino-Indian borders.
  • China has recently started constructing a bridge on Pangong Tso Lake. This bridge will enable faster deployment of Chinese troops and military equipment in the region if the need arises. The bridge is being built about 20 kilometers east of Finger 8 on the northern bank of the lake.
  • China implemented a new Land Border Policy on January 1, 2022. This policy formalizes Chinese transgressions over the LAC and requires clear boundary markers to be set up along China's borders. India has expressed concerns about potential misuse of this policy by the Chinese government.
  • China has been building new military infrastructure near the Line of Actual Control. There have been reports of China creating new villages and settling its people within Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh. China has also renamed areas in Arunachal Pradesh, indicating its assertive approach.
  • India has also been improving its border infrastructure and deploying advanced weapons along the Indo-Chinese border. These measures are taken to enhance India's defense capabilities in the region.
  • Pangong Tso Lake is in the process of being designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. Once designated, it will be the first transborder lake in South Asia to receive this recognition.

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