A five-hour drive from Leh, the Pangong Tso is nothing short of a phenomenon, like several other in the Himalayan region. Situated at a height of 4000 m, it covers a total area of 604 km square, spanning across India and China (Tibet Autonomous Region). Largely famous for its unique, surreal landscapes what with a pristine blue lake smack in the middle of a rusty, brown desert; the lake shimmers and glitters throughout the day, turning different shades of blue and green as the sunlight skids across its surface.
Part of the famous Changthang grasslands of the Ladakh region, the Pangong Tso has a rich historical background which adds to its dreamlike beauty. It had immense geopolitical significance in the past too, as it does now since the actual Line of Control passes through it. The situation between the Indian government and the Chinese authorities regarding this division remains largely sensitive.
Going back to the 17th century, the king of Ladakh, Deldan Namgyal had supported Bhutan in the Tibet-Indian War. The peeved Tibetans had responded with a military attack on Ladakh. Deldan, unable to fight them, sought assistance from the Mughals, who agreed to intervene on the condition that the king converts to Islam. The Tibetans and Ladakhis, however, were horrified at the prospect and reached an agreement in 1684. According to this, Deldan Namgyal had to give away portions of his territory to the Regent of Tibet and with this they drew the new border through Pangsong Tso, thus, a third of the lake lies in India, whereas two-thirds lies in Tibet, China.
In the present scenario, Pangong Tso, being a disputed territory, has several ambiguous demarcations outlined by conflicts between the Indian and the Chinese governments. A section of the lake approximately 20 km east from the Line of Actual Control is controlled by China but claimed by India. The eastern end of the lake is in Tibet but remains disputed. After the mid-19th century, Pangong Tso was claimed to be situated on the southern end of the so-called Johnson Line, an early attempt at demarcation between India and China in the Aksai Chin region. However, this remains fluctuating from time to time. The Khurnak Fort lies on the northern bank of the lake, halfway of Pangong Tso, and is controlled by the Chinese government since 1952. On October 20, 1962, Pangong Tso saw military action, but the border didn’t experience changes.
Also, check out: