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India won’t allow change of status quo on LAC

NEW DELHI, May 26: India won’t allow any alteration of the status quo on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the build-up of Chinese troops will be faced with “strength and restraint”, people familiar with developments said on Tuesday against the backdrop of a high-level security meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Modi met National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat to assess the situation along the LAC amid a tense standoff between thousands of Indian and Chinese troops, especially Galwan Valley and Pangong Lake in eastern Ladakh.

“The bottomline is that we will not allow any change in the status quo on the LAC. That we will not permit,” said one of the people cited above, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“We have faced similar situations in the past, and we will face this situation with strength and restraint,” the person added.

In many ways, India’s position is a reiteration of the stance it adopted during the 73-day standoff at Doklam in 2017, when Indian troops dug in and stood their ground in the face of a rapid mobilisation by the Chinese side.

The people reiterated the external affairs ministry’s contention of May 22 that all activities by Indian troops were on the Indian side of the LAC in the Ladakh and Sikkim sectors. They also repeated the ministry’s accusation that it was Chinese troops that were hindering normal patrolling by Indian forces on the Indian side of the LAC.

“The Indian troops are fully familiar with the alignment of the LAC. The Chinese have raised similar objections and made similar attempts [to hinder the activity of Indian troops] in the past too. Their motives and intentions in the current circumstances are not clear,” the person said.

“But we are very firm and very clear – there have been no violations by us,” the person added.

A second person, who too spoke on condition of anonymity, said India’s construction activities in forward areas will not stop because of the standoff.

The people said the Indian side is facing the current stand-off with firmness and has deployed appropriate resources, even as it works on peaceful resolutions.

Responding to speculation about the efficacy of strategic guidance issued after the informal summits at Wuhan in 2018 and Mammallapuram in 2019 for maintaining peace and tranquillity on the border, the people said established mechanisms for dealing with such issues continued to be in place and both sides were in touch at diplomatic and other levels to address the situation.

“Normal diplomatic contacts, at various levels, are underway,” the first person said, declining to go into details.

The standoff on the LAC is expected to figure prominently on the agenda of the three-day army commanders’ conference that begins on Wednesday, officials said. Army chief Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane will chair the meeting.

“The apex level leadership of the Indian Army will brainstorm on current emerging security and administrative challenges and chart the future course for the army,” an army spokesperson said.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday reviewed the situation in the Ladakh sector of the LAC during a meeting with the chief of defence staff and the three service chiefs.

The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) plans to complete all 61 strategic roads assigned to it along the border with China by December 2022, officials said. These roads are spread across Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, and will allow swifter mobilisation of troops and stores to forward areas.

China is believed to have marshalled close to 5,000 soldiers on its side of the disputed border in Ladakh sector, where India has also sent military reinforcements to strengthen defences amid the growing tensions on the LAC.

Indian and Chinese soldiers are eyeball-to-eyeball at four locations along the LAC and several rounds of talks between local military commanders have failed to end the standoff that began with a violent confrontation between rival patrols three weeks ago near Pangong Lake.

Sending the military reinforcements, including troops, vehicles and heavy equipment, did not require much effort as China diverted resources from an ongoing military exercise in the region, officials said.

Naravane made a low-key visit to Ladakh last week for a security review as tensions grew near Pangong Lake and three pockets in Galwan Valley, where Chinese troops have pitched close to 100 tents and erected temporary structures to establish a presence.

On May 10, tensions flared between India and China in north Sikkim, where 150 soldiers were involved in a tense clash a day earlier. Four Indian and seven Chinese soldiers were injured at Naku La during the confrontation.

Around 250 soldiers from the two sides also clashed near Pangong Lake on the night of May 5-6, with the scuffle leaving scores injured. While an immediate flare-up was avoided as both armies stuck to protocols to resolve the situation, tensions spread to other pockets along the LAC.

The latest standoff is not confined to a small area, and has triggered an increase in troops at multiple locations on both sides and seems to suggest a greater design rather than adventurism by local commanders.

The external affairs ministry said last week the Indian side remained firmly committed to the common objective of maintaining peace and tranquillity in border areas, as this is an essential prerequisite to further development of India-China relations.

LAC between India and China remains tense

NEW DELHI, May 23: India is “closely monitoring the situation and taking appropriate steps”, sources said a day after Army Chief General Manoj Naravane visited the Leh-based 14 Corps headquarters to review the “overall situation on the ground,” even as reports indicated that Chinese troops remain in areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh that are patrolled by India.

“Situation remains tense at Pangong Tso, Galwan Nalah and Demchok. It is being closely monitored,” sources said, as more troops are being moved into the areas of conflict in Sikkim and Ladakh.

In particular, Chinese troops are maintaining positions at 3-4 points along the Galwan nalah, from “point 14 to Gogra mountain”.

This is a big concern at this point, as these run close to the 255 km Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi (DSDBO) road, a vital link for the military.

According to the sources, at each of these points, the PLA has stationed troops, dug in tents and even bunkers. The situation has been escalating since initial incursions in mid-April, after Indian and Chinese soldiers exchanged blows and inflicted injuries.

Another worry, said an officer previously posted in the area, is the fact that skirmishes took place at so many points, indicating a more coordinated push by the PLA.

“Simultaneous incidents across the LAC in Eastern Ladakh at Pangong Tso, Galwan Nalah and Demchok, are a big worry” the officer said, on condition of anonymity.

“Normally stand-offs happen in a local area, but are resolved at the local level,” saod a former Northern Army Commander adding that the current situation, which indicates planning at a “higher level in China” must be resolved at the diplomatic and political level.

The Ministry of External Affairs declined to comment on reports of the Chinese incursions. “Established mechanisms are used to resolve such situations,” the MEA spokesperson said, when asked whether national Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval, or External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had been in contact with Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi.

Doval and Wang, who are the designated Special Representatives of India and China, had met last on December 21, 2019, to discuss bringing an “early settlement of the boundary question” as per talks between Prime Minister Modi and President Xi on the issue.

The situation started building up in late April and resulted in scuffles at Pangong Tso on May 5/6 and at Naku La in North Sikkim on May 9 which resulted in significant injuries due to “aggressive behaviour on both sides”. Chinese troops moved in in large numbers with vehicles and equipment objecting to road construction by India and have also pitched tents, sources said. The Army has declined to comment despite repeated requests.

Chinese troops are close to Finger 2 area of Pangong Tso area and are blocking our movement forward, two sources said. The Pangong Tso is 135 km long and 5-7 km in width of which about one-third is held by India while the rest is held by China. The mountain folds are referred to as ‘Fingers’ of which India claims upto ‘Finger 8’ but holds till ‘Finger 4.’ The lake has been an area of frequent standoffs and after the scuffle on May 5, both sides moved in additional troops and are entrenched there.

Over the last decade, India has significantly augmented its infrastructure and deployments in Ladakh. For instance, in a major operational change, since 2012 the Army began deploying units on longer tenures along the LAC which prior to that were on six month short tenures before heading to or returning from the Siachen Glacier called loop battalions. This has meant availability of more acclimatized troops and also more patrols in the claim areas resulting in more face-offs.

 



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