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Army’s lightning takeover gave India heft in LAC talks

The Indian Army’s lightning takeover of strategic heights on the southern side of Pangong Tso a year ago stunned the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), gave it (the Indian Army) heft in subsequent military negotiations, and eventually paved the way for the first and crucial round of disengagement of rival soldiers and weaponry from the Pangong Tso sector in eastern Ladakh, officials and experts tracking the developments said on Thursday.

The bold moves on the Kailash range and other heights on the southern bank at midnight on August 29 were “a game changer and tilted the balance in favour of the Indian Army” for the first time almost four months after the border row erupted in early May 2020, a senior army officer — one of the people cited above — said on condition of anonymity.

The PLA wasn’t expecting the Indian Army to take control of the southern heights when the entire focus was on developments on the northern bank where the Chinese had intruded into Indian territory and grabbed positions on Finger 4 overlooking Indian deployments, said a second official, who asked not to be named.

“The five rounds of talks held before the August 29 action last year were focused on the Finger Area and other friction points where the PLA had unilaterally changed status quo. And then suddenly, the heights on the southern side of Pangong Tso were also on the negotiating table. It boosted our bargaining power,” this person added.

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