A Visit to Pangong Lake – The Diplomat


Photographic essays | Security | South Asia

Located on the real line of control between China and India, Pangong is at the heart of a tense but beautiful border region.

Pangong Tso, more commonly known as Pangong Lake, is an endorheic lake, which means that it does not flow into the sea. Located at an altitude of about 4, 270 meters is almost 135 kilometers long. Its total area is over 600 km². Perhaps most famous, the Real Control Line (LAC) between China and India, running north to south, crosses the western part of the lake, aligned east-west. Traditionally, India is more present on the South Rim than on the North Rim due to its proximity to areas like Chushul and Rezang La.

India and China have unstable borders, and the perception of CLA differs in multiple sectors, including on Pangong Tso. The situation became even more complex last year when the two countries fought on the southern shore of Lake Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh.

In April and May from 2020 China gathered large numbers of troops in eastern Ladakh and other areas along the 3,488-kilometer LAC, sparking skirmishes in the Galwan Valley, Pangong Lake, Gogra-Hot Springs and other regions. The status quo was changed after the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) built fortified structures in what was seen by India as its territory.

The lake shares a connection with many important geographic sites. The Karakoram mountain range, which runs through Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and India, reaches heights of over 6,000 meters and includes K2, the second highest peak in the world. The chain ends on the north bank of the Pangong Tso. The temperature in Pangong varies from minus-25 degrees Celsius in winter at ten C in summer and winter the lake freezes completely, although it is a salt water lake.

The sightseeing season for Pangong Lake begins in April and ends in October. An interior line permit is required to visit the lake. While Indian nationals can obtain individual permits, others must have group permits (with a minimum of three people) accompanied by an accredited guide; Leh tourist office issues permits for a small fee. For safety reasons, India does not allow boating on the lake.

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