‘Sources’ alter tune on China
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army has ramped up its presence along the entire stretch of the Line of Actual Control from Leh to Arunachal Pradesh and deployed over 10,000 troops in the Ladakh sector alone, the news agency ANI quoted government sources as saying on Thursday.
However, the news agency had earlier claimed on Tuesday that Indian and Chinese soldiers had disengaged at three locations in Ladakh and that China had moved back troops by 2-2.5km in these areas. That report had cited “top government sources”.
In its report on Thursday, ANI also claimed that India had “rushed its fighting formations to forward locations”, increasing its troop numbers along the disputed 3,488km India-China border in response to the Chinese build-up.
“The Chinese military has done military build-up not only in Ladakh but also in other sectors including Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, wherever it shares borders with us. The build-up includes troops and heavy weaponry, which are deployed in rear positions,” ANI said, quoting government sources.
“Along the LAC in Ladakh sector only, the Chinese side has deployed over 10,000 troops and heavy weaponry including tanks and long-range artillery guns and India wants that they should de-induct troops from the rear positions before, for the tensions to really end along the LAC.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s deafening silence on the subject, the government’s initial denial of the standoff and the allegedly selective leaks of conflicting information by unnamed government sources over the past four weeks have created doubts about the actual situation in eastern Ladakh. Indian and Chinese armies are said to have been face-to-face at four locations in the region since early last month.
In its first official response on the standoff on Wednesday, the Chinese foreign ministry had said both armies had reached a “positive consensus” but did not provide details on the key areas of tension, especially the Pangong Lake where Chinese troops are said to have set up camps on India’s side of the LAC.
On reports of troops on both sides disengaging and moving back to their previous positions, as claimed by Tuesday’s ANI report, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying had only said that both sides were taking steps to ease the situation.
At the weekly media briefing on Thursday, India’s foreign ministry said that India and China were holding talks to resolve the standoff in eastern Ladakh, clearly hinting that the issue had not been resolved yet.
“The two sides are maintaining their military and diplomatic engagements to peacefully resolve the situation at the earliest, as also to ensure peace and tranquillity in the border areas. This is essential for the further development of the India-China bilateral relations,” the ministry said in a statement.
A former Intelligence Bureau director said the top political leadership’s reticence was shocking. “The standoff is not resolved at all and the MEA’s statement completely says so. Why is the government not coming clean on the actual situation along the LAC? The ongoing confrontation with China is a very serious issue involving India’s territorial sovereignty,” he told The Telegraph.
An elected BJP leader from an area bordering China had on Wednesday said that Chinese soldiers “are in our territory”.