India Today

BORDER BRINKMANSHIP

Four months after the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China moved two divisions with troops and tanks to spark off the biggest standoff between India and China since the 1962 war, the Indian army made its move. And it chose the enormously significant Chushul sub-sector over 100 kilometres southeast of Leh. When the ‘H-hour’ signal was given late on August 29 evening, hundreds of alpine units of the army’s special forces and ethnic Tibetans from the secretive Special Frontier Force (SFF) began their slow climb up the rolling hills south of Pangong lake. Chosen for their mountaineering skills, their backpacks stuffed with water and dry rations, carrying assault rifles and ammunition, radio sets, night vision devices and hand-held thermal imagers, they were up for the long haul. The climb took them between two and three hours, their objective being to occupy a series of rolling hills along a 40-kilometre-long massif south of the lake. The features—Thakung, Helmet Top, Black Top, Gurung Hill, Magar Hill, Mukhpari, Rezang La and Rechin La—are all at altitudes of 17,000 and 18,000 feet above sea level and within India’s perception of the LAC. Two of the features, Gurung and Magar, named after Gurkha clans, were a reminder of the last soldiers to have held these heights during the 1962 war.

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