From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Patrolling Points along LAC
Mains level : LAC issues
The standoffs between Indian and Chinese troops in Ladakh on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), where initial steps towards disengagement have taken place, are around a number of patrolling points or PPs in Galwan, Hot Springs and Gogra areas.
What exactly are Patrolling Points?
- PPs are patrolling points identified and marked on the LAC, which are patrolled with a stipulated frequency by the security forces.
- They serve as a guide to the location of the LAC for the soldiers, acting as indicators of the extent of ‘actual control’ exercised on the territory by India.
- By regularly patrolling up to these PPs, the Indian side is able to establish and assert its physical claim about the LAC.
Are all the Patrolling Points numbered?
- Some of the PPs are prominent and identifiable geographical features, such as a pass, or a nala junction where no numerals are given.
- Only those PPs, where there are no prominent features, are numbered as in the case of PP14 in Galwan Valley.
Are all on the Patrolling Points bang on the LAC?
- Mostly, yes. Except for the Depsang plains in northern Ladakh, where PP10, PP11, PP11A, PP12 and PP13 – from Raki Nala to Jivan Nala – do not fall on the LAC.
- These are short of the LAC, on the Indian side.
Are these Patrolling Points not manned?
- The PPs are not posts and thus not manned.
- Unlike on the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan, the border with China is not physically held by the Army all along.
- They are just physical markers on the ground, chosen for their location and have no defensive potential or tactical importance for the Army.
If the Patrolling Points are not manned, how is the claim actually asserted?
- The claim is asserted by the Army or joint Army-ITBP patrols as they show more visible presence in these areas.
- This is done by physically visiting PPs with a higher frequency, as the deployment has moved closer to the LAC and due to improved infrastructure.
- As the Chinese may not see when the Indian patrols visit these PPs, they will leave come cigarette packets or food tins with Indian markings behind.
- That lets the Chinese know that Indian soldiers had visited the place, which indicates that India was in control of these areas.
Who has given these Patrolling Points?
- These PPs have been identified by the high-powered China Study Group, starting from 1975 when patrolling limits for Indian forces were specified.
- It is based on the LAC, after the government accepted the concept in 1993, which is also marked on the maps with the Army in the border areas.
- But the frequency of patrolling to PPs is not specified by the CSG – it is finalised by the Army Headquarters in New Delhi, based on the recommendations made by the Army and ITBP.
What is this frequency?
- The frequency of reaching various PPs are given in the annual patrolling programme.
- Based on the terrain, the ground situation and the location of the LAC, the duration for visiting each PP is specified – it can vary from once a month to twice a year.
Major friction area: Hot Springs
- Hot Springs lies in the Chang Chenmo River valley, close to Kongka La, a pass that marks the Line of Actual Control.
- India’s Patrolling Point 15, it is not a launchpad for any offensive action though the area did see action before and during the 1962 war.
- China’s unwillingness to pull back its platoon-sized unit from Hot Springs is a sign of the difficulties that lie in normalising the situation.
- The PLA has traditionally had a major base east of Kongka La.
- The pass also marks the border between two of China’s most sensitive provinces — Xinjiang to the north and Tibet to the south.