India’s armed forces are prepared to look at any military option if the extensive talks to restore status quo ante along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) did not yield any positive result, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen Bipin Rawat has said on the prolonged border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh.
Gen Rawat, who has been part of the top military brass strategising on the Sino-India border issue, said a “whole of government” approach is being followed to peacefully resolve the row.
The armed forces are always prepared for military actions if all efforts to restore status quo ante along the LAC don’t “fructify,” the CDS said when asked about the over three-month-long border row.
Gen Rawat, who was the Chief of Army Staff from December 2016 to December 2019, said the transgressions take place along the LAC because of varying perceptions about it by the two countries.
India and China have held several rounds of military and diplomatic talks in the last two-and-half months but no significant headway has been made for a resolution to the border standoff.
On Thursday, the two sides held another round of diplomatic parleys following which the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said they had agreed to resolve outstanding issues in an “expeditious manner” and in accordance with the existing agreements and protocols.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Gen Rawat and the three service chiefs are regularly meeting to review India’s military preparedness in eastern Ladakh as well as to take measures in sync with the evolving situation in the region.
At the military talks, the Indian Army has been strongly insisting that restoration of the status quo ante of April this year by China is the only way to resolve the row, according to government sources.
There is a growing view in the Army that the Chinese military is not serious about the resolution of the border conflict as it is resorting to “back and forth” negotiations while the Indian side has very clearly conveyed about its position on the matter.
Sources said notwithstanding the border row, India has been carrying on with the work on laying new roads in the Ladakh region besides developing other key infrastructure.
“Our road construction is not in response to PLA infrastructure development but based on our requirements and those of our people,” said a source.
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. However, the process has not moved forward since mid-July.
The PLA has pulled back from Galwan Valley and certain other friction points but the withdrawal of troops has not moved forward in Pangong Tso, Depsang and a couple of other areas, sources said.
In the five rounds of Corps commander-level talks, the Indian side has been insisting on complete disengagement of Chinese troops at the earliest, and immediate restoration of status quo ante in all areas of eastern Ladakh prior to April.
Even as both sides are engaged in diplomatic and military talks, the Indian army is making elaborate preparations to maintain its current strength of troops in all key areas in eastern Ladakh in the harsh winter months.
Chief of Army Staff Gen MM Naravane has already conveyed to all the senior commanders of the Army, overseeing operation of the frontline formations along the LAC, to maintain a significantly high state of alertness to deal with any Chinese “misadventure”, the sources said.
The Army is also in the process of procuring a number of weapons, ammunition and winter gears for the frontline troops, they added. The temperature in some of the high-altitude areas along the LAC drops to minus 25 degree celsius in the winter months. The tension between the two sides escalated manifold after the violent clashes in Galwan Valley on June 15 in which 20 Indian Army personnel were killed. The Chinese side also suffered casualties but it is yet to give out the details. According to an American intelligence report, the number of casualties on the Chinese side was 35.