The country’s defence establishment is finalising a plan to send a dozen new high-speed interceptor boats armed with the latest surveillance gear to Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh, where Indian and Chinese soldiers have been locked in a fierce confrontation since early May.
Sources said the Indian Army does have 17 QRT (quick-reaction team) boats for patrolling the lake located an altitude of 13,900-feet since 2012-2013, but the need has been felt to further augment the force’s capabilities to match the heavier Type-928B patrol boats being used by the People’s Liberation Army there.
“But the plan will face a huge logistical challenge because it will be extremely tough to transport the new boats or fast-interceptor crafts to the high-altitude region. The boats may have to be dismantled and airlifted by C-17 Globemaster-III aircraft to Leh and then taken forward from there to reach the lake. It will take time,” said a source.
The 134-km-long Pangong lake, two-thirds of which is controlled by China as it extends from Tibet to India, has been a major flashpoint between the two countries over the years.
Before the Army got the QRT boats around eight years ago, it used to be quite hamstrung by its then outdated slow-moving boats. The PLA had often even disabled the Indian boats by ramming into them with its heavier boats.
Since the rival troops clashed on its north bank on May 5-6 this year, the PLA has physically occupied the entire 8-km stretch from `Finger-4 to Finger-8’ (mountainous spurs), taken control of the dominating heights and built dozens of new fortifications, bunkers and pill-boxes in the area.
All Indian patrols have since been blocked going from west to east till the Finger-8 area, where the Line of Actual Control runs north to south. The PLA has even created massive signage in the area to claim it as Chinese territory.