General Manoj Pande says Indian troops deployed along the Line of Actual Control are maintaining a ‘robust posture’ and are prepared for any challenge
There has been a “slight increase” in Chinese troops on the Line of Actual Control in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, the Indian Army chief said on Thursday, adding that the situation along the Ladakh frontier was “stable” but “unpredictable”.
General Manoj Pande, who refrained from mentioning China by name — mirroring a practice at the highest levels of government — added that the Indian troops deployed along the LAC were maintaining a “robust posture” and were prepared for any challenge.
“There is a slight increase in the number of troops opposite our Eastern Command. We are keeping a close watch on the movements,” Pande said at a news conference here ahead of Army Day, January 15.
“The situation (along the LAC in Ladakh) is stable and under control, but yet unpredictable. Our troops have been able to maintain a robust posture and our preparedness is of a very high level.”
Pande’s comments come at a time the security establishment has been concerned at China’s “brazen” aggression along the Arunachal border over the past several months — culminating in a clash on December 9 — following its transgressions in Ladakh in the western sector since May 2020.
Pande added that both sides had been able to “resolve five of the seven issues” that were on the table, appearing to portray as a resolution the partial disengagements in Ladakh that army veterans have condemned as a “capitulation” and a “ceding” of more territory to China. Defence ministry sources have denied the charges.
“We continue to talk both at the military and diplomatic levels,” Pande said.
The two unresolved issues could be the strategic Depsang Plains, where the Chinese are yet to disengage, and Demchok, a “legacy issue” from the 1990s.
A security official attached to the Union home ministry said: “We have noticed an aggressive military assertiveness by the Chinese in the eastern sector. They have been coming increasingly deeper into our territory with the aim of staking claim to disputed areas over the past few months.”
More than 500 Chinese troops had crossed the LAC on December 9 and begun vandalising Indian military posts at17,000 feet in Yangtze, in the Tawang sector of western Arunachal, setting up a clash that injured 15 to 20 Indian soldiers.
This was the first clash between the two sides after June 15, 2020, when violence in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh killed 20 Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese troopers.
China is believed to have deployed over 70,000 troops along the LAC in eastern Ladakh and continues to build infrastructure inside India-claimed lines. External affairs minister S. Jaishankar had last month said that India had made its biggest-ever LAC deployment to counter the Chinese buildup in Ladakh.
The Chinese are said to been trenched 18km inside India-claimed lines in Depsang and have built permanent infrastructure including roads, surface-to-air defence systems, radars and observation towers. Overall, they are estimated to have taken over close to 1,000sqkm of India-claimed territory in Ladakh.
Pande said a proposal to induct women personnel into artillery units had been sent to the government. He said the ceasefire understanding with Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir, struck in February 2021, was holding well but cross-border support to terrorism and the terror infrastructure remained.
He said the army had decided to undertake a transformation spanning five key domains: “force restructuring and optimisation, modernisation and technology infusion, and human resource management philosophy”.