Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Chushul Valley and its Significance

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chushul Valley

Mains level : India-China border skirmishes

The Chushul sub-sector has come into focus in the standoff between the Indian and PLA troops.

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What is the Chushul Valley?

  • The Chushul sub-sector lies south of Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh.
  • It comprises high, broken mountains and heights of Thatung, Black Top, Helmet Top, Gurung Hill, and Magger Hill besides passes such as Rezang La and Reqin La, the Spanggur Gap, and the Chushul valley.
  • Situated at a height of over 13,000 feet close to the LAC, the Chushul Valley has a vital airstrip that played an important role even during the 1962 War with China.

What is its strategic importance to India?

  • Chushul is one among the five Border Personnel Meeting points between the Indian Army and the People‚Äôs Liberation Army of China.
  • It enjoys tremendous strategic and tactical importance because of its location and terrain, which make it a centre for logistics deployment.
  • This sector has plains that are a couple of km wide, where mechanized forces, including tanks, can be deployed. Its airstrip and connectivity by road to Leh add to its operational advantages.
  • Indian troops have now secured the ridgeline in this sub-sector that allows them to dominate the Chushul bowl on the Indian side, and Moldo sector on the Chinese side.
  • They also have a clear sight of the almost 2-km-wide Spanggur gap, which the Chinese used in the past to launch attacks on this sector in the 1962 War.

How is Chushul important to China?

  • Simply put, Chushul is the gateway to Leh. If China enters the Chushul, it can launch its operations for Leh.
  • After the initial attacks, including on the Galwan valley by the Chinese in October 1962, the PLA troops prepared to attack Chushul airfield and the valley to get direct access to Leh.
  • However, just before the attacks were launched, the area was reinforced by the 114 Brigade in November 1962, which also had under its command two troops of armour and some artillery.

What are the challenges in this area?

  • An immediate challenge is of a flare-up as troops of the two countries are deployed within a distance of 800 to 1,000 metres of each other at Black Top and Reqin La.
  • Logistics also pose a major challenge. There is a need to carry water and food to the top which soldiers cannot do.
  • The harsh winter that lasts for eight months of the year poses a big challenge.
  • It is very difficult to dig in and make shelters on the ridgeline. The temperature falls to minus 30 degrees Celsius, and there are frequent snowstorms.
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