Indian Army chief general Manoj Pande said on Saturday said the situation in eastern Ladakh is “stable but unpredictable”, revealing that in spite of the onset of winter, there is no significant reduction in the Chinese Army’s force levels on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Amid the more than 30-month standoff between the Indian and Chinese troops in the high-altitude region, Pande said the focus of the next round of military talks would be to resolve issues at the two remaining friction points, seen as a reference to Demchok and Depsang in that region.
In an address at a think-tank, Pande said, “If I have to describe it (situation) in a single sentence, then I will say that the situation is stable but unpredictable.”
Replying to a question of Major Gaurav Arya (retd) during ‘fireside chat’ on the situation in eastern Ladakh, Pande said, “You are aware of the talks on the political, diplomatic and military level which is going on between the two sides. Because of these talks, we have been able to find a resolution in five of the seven friction points which were on the table. And it is for the next two friction points, on that, we are trying to find a resolution.”
As far as China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) force levels are concerned, “there has been no significant reduction”, he said.
Pande, in his remarks at the ‘Chanakya Dialogues’, pitched for “very carefully calibrated” actions on the LAC to be able to safeguard India’s interests and sensitivities.
“If I have to describe it (situation) in a single sentence, then I will say that the situation is stable but unpredictable,” Pande said, replying to a question.
China’s infrastructure development
On China’s infrastructure development along the LAC, the Indian Army chief said it is going on “unabated” and that they are constructing helipads, airfields and roads right up to the passes.
“One of the notable developments has been the G695 highway which is parallel to the LAC which will give them the ability not only to move forces forward but also switch forces from one sector to another,” he said.
“As far as our preparations are concerned, our transition to the winter posture is currently underway. But We have also made sure that we have adequate forces and adequate reserves to be able to deal with any contingency,” he added.
“But in the larger context, we need to very carefully calibrate our actions on the LAC to be able to safeguard both our interests and sensitivities yet be prepared to deal with all types of contingencies,” Pande said.
16th round of high-level military talks
The 16th round of high-level military talks took place on July 17. In line with a decision at the meeting, the two sides carried out disengagement from Patrolling Point 15 in the Gogra-Hotsprings area in September.
On Xi Jinping
Asked about Chinese President Xi Jinping asking PLA troops to remain ready to fight and win wars, Pande said Indian forces need to focus on Chinese actions.
“We all know that what the Chinese say and what they do is quite different. It is also part of their deception, or their nature, their character. What they say or articulate, we need to….But perhaps we need to focus on their actions rather than what is there in the written text or scripts or their articulation. Perhaps, then we will not go wrong,” he said.
On Thursday, external affairs minister S Jaishankar told Hindustan Times that India’s relationship with China cannot be normal unless there is peace in the border areas and there is no ambiguity in New Delhi’s signalling to that country.
(With inputs from PTI)