Srinagar: Around 2,000 people living in the frontline villages of Chushul area in eastern Ladakh bordering China are anxious following the ongoing troop buildup and artillery movement in the area, according to a member of the Ladakh autonomous council. Eight villages in three panchayat halqas in Chushul constituency fear violence could engulf the area any time. “We are witnessing an unusual troop buildup and artillery movement from our side. Our elders had witnessed such situation during the 1962 war with China. We want things to settle down as soon as possible,” councillor of Chushul, Konchok Stanzin told ET.

Stanzin, the Executive Councillor of Education in the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, advocated bilateral dialogue to de-escalate tension between India and China. Stanzin said that he had visited the villages on Friday. Although people were engaged in agricultural activity, they remained edgy. “Right now tension is at two places, Galwan Valley and Finger Four area, which is very near to one of the inhabited villages.

The aerial distance from the hotspot to villages is less than 10 km,” he said. Finger Four area is the traditional winter grazing pasture of livestock owned by the villagers, where they move for a few months, annually. “Until this year, faceoffs were settled soon through dialogue. Army patrolling was regular, but it never led to the situation we see now,” said Stanzin.

A local resident said that lack of communication network and development made them more vulnerable and that they had no support structure to fall back in case of an escalation. However, Stanzin said that the issues were being addressed.

Pangong Lake in the area is a source of major economic activity for locals. It opens for summer and remains cutoff from rest of the world in winter. Covid-19 and the tension between India and China have minimised any chance of tourist arrivals for the next few months. “I don’t see the tension evaporating any time soon. This is not a tactical move, but a strategic move from China in response to India’s strategic move in J&K on August 5, 2019,” said Sidiq Wahid, senior visiting fellow at the Centre for Policy Research and adjunct fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies in Delhi and a native of Ladakh.

A participant of the borderland project of the India-China Institute at the New School University in New York, Wahid said that China could try to force a discussion to define/redefine the Line of Actual Control in its interest.

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