Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday reviewed India’s overall military preparedness in eastern Ladakh and several other sensitive areas along the Line of Actual Control in Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh even as commanders of the Indian and Chinese armies held another round of talks to end the current standoff, official sources said.
The defence minister was given a detailed account of the overall situation in eastern Ladakh by Army Chief Gen MM Naravane at a high-level meeting which was also attended by Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh and Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria.
The Indian and Chinese armies are locked in an over five-week standoff in Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie in eastern Ladakh.
The two sides have deployed additional troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de-facto Sino-India border, in North Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh in the last few days, the sources said.
In the review meeting, Singh told the top military brass to continue to deal with the situation in eastern Ladakh and other areas with “firmness”, at the same time insisting that the two sides must resolve the row through talks, they said.
It is learnt that the Chief of Air Staff conveyed in the meeting that the Indian Air Force is keeping a close eye on all the air activities by China along the LAC while the Navy Chief talked about the situation in the Indian Ocean region where the Chinese Navy has been trying to increase its presence.
“The defence minister carried out a comprehensive review of the situation in eastern Ladakh and other areas along the LAC,” said a senior official on condition of anonymity.
Military sources said the two armies held another round of Major General-level talks on Friday to find a way out to defuse the tension in eastern Ladakh.
On Wednesday too, divisional commanders of the two armies held talks with an aim to end the bitter tussle.
It is learnt that the Indian delegation pitched for restoration of status quo ante and immediate withdrawal of thousands of Chinese troops from the areas which India considers on its side of the LAC in eastern Ladakh, the sources said.
On Thursday, Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Anurag Srivastava said India is maintaining military and diplomatic engagements with China to peacefully resolve the row at the “earliest”.
He said both sides agreed to work for an early resolution in sync with broader guidance provided by leaders of the two countries for ensuring peace and tranquillity along the border areas.
Military sources on Tuesday claimed that the two armies began “disengagement” around patrolling points 14 and 15 in Galwan Valley and another in the Hot Spring area, adding the Chinese side has even moved back up to 1.5 km in the two areas. However, there was no official word on it so far.
People familiar with the standoff said sizeable number of Chinese troops are still camping in Galwan Valley and Hot Spring and that the standoff in the areas continued.
In their first serious efforts to end the row, Lt General Harinder Singh, the general officer commanding of Leh-based 14 Corps, and Commander of the Tibet Military District Maj Gen Liu Lin held a nearly seven-hour meeting on June 6.
In the next few days, the field commanders of the two sides are slated to hold a series of meetings to discuss specific measures to defuse the tension.
After the standoff began in early last month, Indian military leadership decided that Indian troops will adopt a firm approach in dealing with the aggressive posturing by the Chinese troops in all disputed areas of Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie.
The Chinese Army has been gradually ramping up its strategic reserves in its rear bases near the LAC by rushing in artillery guns, infantry combat vehicles and heavy military equipment.
The trigger for the face-off was China’s stiff opposition to India laying a key road in the Finger area around the Pangong Tso Lake besides construction of another road connecting the Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie road in Galwan Valley.
The road in the Finger area in Pangong Tso is considered crucial for India to carry out patrol. India has already decided not to stall any border infrastructure projects in eastern Ladakh in view of Chinese protests.
The situation in the area deteriorated after around 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers were engaged in a violent face-off on May 5 and 6. The incident in Pangong Tso was followed by a similar incident in north Sikkim on May 9.
The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488-km-long LAC. China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet while India contests it.
Both sides have been asserting that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, it is necessary to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas.