China troops in ‘significant’ numbers: Govt
Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday said top military leaders of India and China would meet on June 6 over the standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, ending the official secrecy over the tension at the border that has now stretched over three weeks.
Indian and Chinese soldiers have been locked in a face-off in areas such as the Pangong lake, the Galwan valley, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie over the past three weeks.
In an interview to a TV channel, Rajnath said the Chinese troops had moved in “significant numbers” along the LAC — the first official confirmation of the Chinese build-up. He, however, said India was prepared and had also moved in enough troops.
“Yeh baat sach hai ke achhi khasi sankhya mein Chin ke log bhi aa gaye hain (It is true that the Chinese have come in significant numbers),” the defence minister told Network 18 while responding to a question on the ground situation at the border.
“I have been told that the military leaders of India and China will meet on June 6. I have also spoken to the army chief about this,” Rajnath added.
The minister asserted that India had also prepared itself.
Sources in the army said the minister’s acknowledgement had cleared the air on the ground situation.
“The current build-up by the PLA (Chinese People’s Liberation Army) at the LAC is different from earlier face-offs between the two armies as this time they are present in sizeable numbers,” a source said. Rajnath said India and China were talking to each other at military and diplomatic levels to resolve the standoff and said the government would not allow India’s dignity to be hurt under any circumstances.
“Even the Doklam standoff between the two sides was resolved through diplomatic and military-level talks,” he said, referring to the tensions in 2017 at the plateau at the tri-junction of India, China and Bhutan.
Rajnath’s admission broke a shroud of secrecy that had enveloped the escalating border dispute in the absence of any official statement over the past three weeks. There have also been reports of “incursion” by Chinese soldiers in eastern Ladakh at about 15,000ft above sea level.Opposition parties had questioned the government’s studied silence and keeping the country in the dark about the “alarming” situation and the reported transgression by Chinese troops into Indian territory in the Galwan valley.
The latest standoff between the two armies escalated after several Indian and Chinese soldiers were injured in a cross-border clash during which they came to blows and hurled stones at each other on May 5 near the Pangong lake, two-thirds of which is under Chinese control.
The flashpoint between the two sides in this sector is said to have been triggered by New Delhi’s move to construct a road within Indian territory near the lake. The PLA has objected to it.
The Indian Army sources said the new road project was part of India’s plan to build border infrastructure as China had also constructed several roads in its territory. They said India had never protested such constructions by the Chinese.
The sources said the troops of both countries were now eyeball-to-eyeball at three-four locations, including near Pangong Tso. Chinese troops are also said to have infiltrated 3-4km into Indian territory in the Galwan valley and even stopped Indian soldiers from patrolling beyond the Finger 2 area of the Pangong lake.
The PLA has deployed additional troops near the disputed boundary, prompting the Indian Army to send reinforcements.
“The PLA has been gradually ramping up its strategic reserves in its rear bases near the LAC by rushing in artillery, infantry combat vehicles and military equipment. In a bid to match Chinese build-up, the Indian Army has also been moving in additional troops and artillery,” said an army officer.
Both sides have also been keeping strict aerial surveillance in the disputed region.