Army, IAF on alert after fresh border standoff with China
NEW DELHI, Aug 7 (PTI): The Indian Army and the IAF will maintain a very high-level of operational readiness in all areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, North Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh till a “satisfactory” resolution to the border row with China is arrived at, people familiar with the developments said on Friday.
Chief of Army Staff Gen MM Naravane has already conveyed to all the senior commanders of the Army overseeing the operation of the frontline formations along the LAC to keep up a significantly high state of alertness and maintain the aggressive posturing to deal with any Chinese “misadventure”, they said.
In the last three weeks, the Chief of Army Staff held long and elaborate discussions with all the senior commanders responsible for overseeing the Army’s operational readiness and deployment along the nearly 3,500 KM-long LAC, the de-facto border between India and China.
The fresh directive to maintain a very high-level of alertness came in the wake of lack of forward movement in implementation of the disengagement process by China’s People’s Liberation Army(PLA) in several friction points in eastern Ladakh including Pangong Tso, Depsang and Gogra.
India has already conveyed to China that there is no option but to restore status quo ante in all areas of eastern Ladakh to end the row, the people familiar with the developments said.
While Gen Naravane visited eastern Ladakh in mid-July with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, on Thursday he held wide-ranging deliberations with senior commanders of the eastern command in Tezpur-based 4 Corps headquarters.
The Indian Air Force(IAF) is also preparing to maintain a relatively very high state of alertness in eastern Ladakh and other sensitive areas.
Vice Chief of IAF Air Marshal H S Arora visited a number of air bases in Ladakh on Friday to take stock of the operational preparedness of the force.
Following the Galwan Valley clashes, the IAF deployed almost all its frontline fighter jets like Sukhoi 30 MKI, Jaguar and Mirage 2000 aircraft in the key frontier air bases in eastern Ladakh and elsewhere along the LAC.
The IAF has been carrying out night time combat air patrols over the eastern Ladakh region in an apparent message to China that it was ready to deal with any eventualities in the mountainous region.
The IAF has also deployed Apache attack choppers as well as Chinook heavy-lift helicopters to transport troops to various forward locations in eastern Ladakh.
The Army has already made elaborate plans to maintain current strength of troops and weapons along the LAC during the harsh winter months in eastern Ladakh and all other sensitive areas along the LAC.
The temperature in some of the high-altitude areas along the LAC drops to minus 25 degree celsius in the winter months.
The Army is in the process of procuring a number of weapons, ammunition and winter gears for the frontline troops.
India and China have held several rounds of diplomatic and military talks aimed at disengagement of troops from friction points in eastern Ladakh.
On August 2, the two armies held the fifth round of Corps commander-level talks in an effort to expedite the disengagement process.
At the talks, the Indian side insisted on complete disengagement of Chinese troops at the earliest, and immediate restoration of status quo ante in all areas of eastern Ladakh prior to May 5 when the standoff began following a clash between the two armies in Pangong Tso.
The Chinese PLA has pulled back from Galwan Valley and certain other friction points but the withdrawal of troops has not moved forward from the Finger areas in Pangong Tso since mid-July, according to sources.
India has been insisting that China must withdraw its forces from areas between Finger Four and Eight. The mountain spurs in the area are referred to as Fingers.
The formal process of disengagement of troops began on July 6, a day after a nearly two-hour telephonic conversation between National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on ways to bring down tensions in the area.
In the first round of the Corp commander-level talks on June 6, both sides finalised an agreement to disengage gradually from all the standoff points beginning with Galwan Valley.
However, the situation deteriorated following the Galwan Valley clashes on June 15 in which 20 Indian army personnel were killed. China has not released information on casualties on its side but according to an American intelligence report it was 35.
The second round of talks took place on June 22.
In the third round of military talks on June 30, both sides agreed on an “expeditious, phased and step wise” de-escalation as a “priority” to end the standoff.
After the Galwan Valley incident, the government has given the armed forces “full freedom” to give a “befitting” response to any Chinese misadventure along the LAC.
The Army has sent thousands of additional troops to forward locations along the border following the deadly clashes. The IAF has also moved air defence systems as well as a sizable number of its frontline combat jets and attack helicopters to several key air bases.