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SOURCE: THE PRINT

With summers expected to heighten tensions in eastern Ladakh, the government has fast-tracked the construction of 12 indigenous fast patrol vessels with specialised capabilities to counter Chinese boats in the Pangong Tso.

Sources in the defence and security establishment told ThePrint that the Goa Shipyard will be asked to prioritise the construction of the new vessels for Pangong Tso, which is frozen during winter.

“The timeline will be part of the final contract to be signed. These are extraordinary times and hence the project will be fast-tracked,” a source said.

Sources said that normally a shipyard would take about a year to construct the vessels but the Goa Shipyard, which won the contract this week, will be asked to expedite the process so that the vessels could be deployed sooner than expected.

The 135-km long Pangong Tso, a landlocked lake that is partly in the Ladakh region and partly in Tibet, has seen tensions between India and China since May.

The lake’s northern bank juts forward like a palm, and the various protrusions are identified as “fingers” to demarcate territory. India asserts that the Line of Actual Control is at Finger 8, but China claims areas up to Finger 2 even though patrol by vehicles on land are only until Finger 4.

It is in the waters of the lake, two-thirds of which is controlled by China, with just about 45 km on the Indian side, that the Chinese carry out aggressive manoeuvres.

More powerful and bigger than current vessels

The sources said that the new Army vessels are bigger and more powerful than the ones being used by the troops currently.

Also, unlike earlier ones, the new vessels will have steel hulls, which will come handy to counter the alleged Chinese tactics of ramming their vessels onto Indian boats.

The ramming often ends up damaging the Indian boats. Moreover, the Chinese have bigger vessels, which carry double of what the current Indian vessels allow.

Sources said that a specialised team from the Navy had gone to the Pangong Tso and studied the terrain and challenges.

The final technical requirements for the boats was firmed up by the Army, taking into consideration the inputs provided by the Navy.