India-China clash: Naravane carries out security review in Ladakh
Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane on Friday visited forward areas in eastern Ladakh to carry out a security review in a sensitive sector where the Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have been locked in a border standoff for almost 17 months and both sides are carrying out negotiations to cool tensions along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC), officials familiar with the development said on Friday.
Naravane visited forward areas in eastern Ladakh where he was briefed on the prevailing security situation and the army’s operational preparedness, the army said in a statement. The army chief interacted with the troops and complimented them “for their resoluteness and high morale”, it added.
The two-day visit came barely two months after the rival armies carried out the second round of disengagement in early August when both sides pulled back their forward deployed troops from Gogra or Patrol Point-17A, which was one of the friction points on the LAC. The breakthrough came after the 12th round of military talks held on August 2.
Earlier, India and China wrapped up the disengagement process in Pangong Tso area in mid-February, with their armies pulling back forward-deployed troops, tanks, infantry combat vehicles and artillery guns from strategic heights where rival soldiers last year fired shots for the first time at the LAC after 45 years. (The last recorded incident when bullets were fired at the LAC was in October 1975, when the PLA ambushed an Indian patrol in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tulung La sector and shot four soldiers dead).
Problems at Hot Springs and Depsang are yet to be resolved. To be sure, the problems at Depsang predate the current border standoff. Even after the disengagement from Pangong Tso and Gogra, the two sides still have 50,000 to 60,000 troops each in the Ladakh theatre. The dates for the 13th round of talks to discuss the other friction points along the LAC are yet to be announce
The visit also came a day after the army chief said at an event in Delhi that developments along the LAC in Ladakh added to challenges faced by the Indian military on the “active and disputed borders” in the western and eastern fronts. The “unprecedented” military standoff with China required an immediate response and large-scale mobilisation of resources at a time when the country was grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, he said while addressing the annual session of the PHD Chamber Of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI) on Thursday.
Naravane’s Ladakh visit also came barely a month after multiple PLA patrols consisting of around 100 soldiers crossed the LAC in the central sector in Uttarakhand and damaged a foot bridge before they went back to the other side.
The army chief also visited the Rezang La War Memorial in eastern Ladakh and paid homage to the bravehearts killed in action during the 1962 India-China war. The historic Battle of Rezang La, fought at heights of more than 18,000 feet, saw 124 Indian soldiers repel attack after attack by a numerically superior and better-equipped enemy in November 1962.