Amid the ongoing tension on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, Army Chief General MM Naravane here on Friday briefed Defence Minister Rajnath Singh of the prevailing ground situation and the Chinese Army’s increased build-up at several places along the LAC.
The Army Chief returned after a two-day visit to forward areas there. The important briefing came at a time when the Chinese have not pulled back their troops and the Indian Armed forces are now prepared for a long haul.
After a massive Chinese military build-up in the Depsang valley in Eastern Ladakh in the last few days even as the two Armies were holding parleys to restore peace at the LAC, the Indian forces have also ramped up their troop strength.
On Naravane’s briefing to the Defence Minister, sources said the Army chief on his first visit met the injured jawans in the hospital in Leh. He also took stock of the preparedness with the senior brass of the Northern Command. Naravane also visited some forward areas in his visit on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Army Chief updated Rajnath Singh, who also returned to New Delhi after a three-day visit to Moscow on Thursday, about the level of preparedness of the forces to deal with any exigencies on the ground in view of the Chinese Army’s refusal to disengage in any meaningful manner.
Besides giving the latest position on the LAC and operational readiness to meet any challenge, the Army chief also apprised the Minister of the deliberations at the Army Commanders Conference (ACC) held early this week.
Sources said the Army chief briefed the Defence Minister about the growing Chinese deployment in Pangong Tso area of eastern Ladakh, which is seen as a serious cause of concern by the Indian Armed forces. The two sides are face to face at Finger Four of the Pangong lake area, where the Chinese have stayed put and are refusing to go back.
The Chinese Army is reported to be occupying the crucial ridgelines on top of Finger Four, overlooking the forward Indian positions. Reports say that the Chinese side has brought in vehicles, tents, and boats covering the eastern part of the Finger Four and Finger Eight.
The Chinese are not allowing the Indian Army to patrol now up to Finger 8 and blocking them near Finger 4 itself.
The assessment in the security establishment indicates that it may take months before status quo ante prior to May 5 is restored by the Chinese, sources said here on Friday.
Since early May, the Chinese have intruded into at least four places in Eastern Ladakh leading to face-offs between the two Armies. The stand-off sites include Galwan valley, Gogra, Pangong Tso (lake) and Hot Springs. Lately, the Chinese Army has also started moving closer to the LAC on its side in the Depsang valley. This area witnessed a major face-off in 2013 for more than four weeks before intervention at the highest levels on both sides defused the tension.
Incidentally, the Chinese have constructed blacktop roads and culverts on the river in the Galwan valley for unhindered movement of its vehicles in the Galwan valley thereby giving a clear signal to India that they are here to stay for a long time, sources said.
At present, there are no indications on the ground that the Chinese have started honoring the agreement arrived at between the two Corps Commanders on June 6 to de-escalate and disengage. Matters took a turn for the worst after June 15 brawl in the Galwan valley killing 20 Indian army personnel. Now, the entire LAC in the Ladakh region is volatile and sources said things will return to normal by November or December.
India has all along insisted that the Chinese started making efforts to change the status quo on the LAC in May by disrupting Indian patrols and bringing in more troops and weaponry in the region as part of the build up. In the June 6 talks, India stuck to its point that China restore status quo ante prior to May.
However, it now seems a tall order as the Chinese have, so far, shown no inclination of reducing its troop strength from the face-off sites besides depth areas. After the unprecedented skirmish on June 15 and resultant tension, it is unlikely that the LAC will return to normal soon, sources said. Also, the modalities for disengagement from “all friction areas” in Eastern Ladakh agreed to at the second Corps Commander talks between Lt General Harinder Singh and Major General Liu Lin on June 22 is yet to get underway, they added.
Saturday, 27 June 2020 | PNS | New Delhi
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