There has been no withdrawal of Chinese troops from the Ladakh frontier and the ground situation remains the same, according to the Indian Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane who stated that reports of Chinese soldiers' movement from depth areas has no relation to the deployment on the Line of Actual Control.
Dismissing reports that 10,000 Chinese soldiers have been redeployed, General Naravane said too much should not be read into either their presence or their going back, as these locations are 500 to 1,500 km deep inside Chinese territory.
He also said that the current conflict situation along the LAC in Ladakh remains the same and the Indian Army is keeping a strict vigil and the soldiers are in a state of high alert on the Indian side of the de facto border.
“Today’s situation in Ladakh is the same. As far as the (Chinese soldiers’) withdrawal is concerned, every summer, they come to the Tibetan Plateau for training and return especially as winter sets in. These are traditional training areas from where they go back. We should not read too much into this, whether they are present or absent or go back from these areas. This is nothing new,” Naravane said at his annual press conference here.
“These areas are well off in the depth areas anywhere between 500 to 1,500 km away from the border. All the same, we keep an eye on them, as these are the forces that could be mobilised and reach the borders in 24 hours to 48 hours so there is a necessity to keep a watch in all the deployments in the Tibetan Plateau.”
He also made it a point to clarify that there has been no decrease in troop strength along with the eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation areas along the Line of Actual Control, either on the Chinese side or on the Indian side.
“We need not give too much significance on these comings and goings. What is more important is border areas where eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation is there in all the various friction areas. There has been no reduction of troops in these particular areas. That is where we have to be more concerned and alert.”
Naravane said in May 2020, the Chinese PLA had the first-mover advantage. But in August 2020, India turned the tables when India had the first-mover advantage on the southern banks of Pangong Tso, where Indian soldiers occupied key heights bang on the Indian perceived LAC.
He said the Indian Army is ready for a long haul along the Line of Actual Control but hopes for an amicable solution in the nine-month-long standoff with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
“We are prepared to hold our ground where we are for as long as it takes to achieve our national goals and interest,” said General Naravane during an annual presser in New Delhi.
General Naravane said that last year the Army had to walk the talk to meet the challenges and the force did so successfully. “The first and biggest challenge was Covid and the next was the situation at the northern border,” he said.
Talking about the situation in Ladakh, he said that Indian Army is on high alert not only in eastern Ladakh but across the northern border with China. He also said that there has been a first-mover advantage so the Indian Army is fully alert.
“We carry out periodic review of our operations plan and strategy to deal with various threats both on the internal and external fronts – one front or two fronts. Based on these reviews we carry out a certain amount of rebalancing. This is a continuous and ongoing process,” he said.
As the eastern Ladakh experience has shown, there was a need for a certain amount of rebalancing towards the northern border.
“Eight rounds of talks took place between military commanders on either side. Each of these rounds were either preceded or forwarded by a diplomatic engagement – WMCC,” he said.
Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) is an institutional mechanism for consultation and coordination for the management of India-China border areas.
“The talks are an ongoing process. We will ensure that through the medium of these talks we reach a solution that is acceptable and non-detrimental to our interest,” he said.
He stressed that if talks get prolonged, the Indian Army is prepared to hold the ground as long as it takes.
He also said: “We have gone into a winter deployment situation… We (India and China) will reach amicable solutions. However, we are ready to meet any eventuality.”
He also said there was no cause for concern on the logistical issues and the force’s operational preparedness is of a high order. “The morale of the troops is high,” General Naravane said.
On the situation of standoff, he said: “The situation at the Line of Actual Control is the same as it was last year. The status quo remains the same. We have received directions from the government to remain in the same position where we are deployed at the friction point.”
“There is no change in the deployment in the friction area in eastern Ladakh,” said the Army Chief, adding that there is no decrease in the number of troops in the friction areas.
He also said that a collusive threat from Pakistan and China exists and they together form a potent threat and the force is fully capable to deal with it.
India and China are engaged in a nine-month-long standoff at the LAC in eastern Ladakh. Despite several levels of dialogue, there has not been any breakthrough and the deadlock continues.
Army is on high alert not only in Eastern Ladakh but across the Northern Border with China.
In an annual presser, General Naravane said: “We have gone into a winter deployment situation… We (India and China) will reach amicable solutions. However, we are ready to meet any eventuality.” (IANS)