Chinese ambassador Sun Weidong’s claim on Thursday about the location of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at Pangong Tso and his refusal to clarify the LAC point to a scenario where the Indian Army will have to increase its permanent deployment on the disputed and tense border.
A senior Army officer told The Indian Express on Friday: “Our preparations and activities will be based on the actions of the adversary. As long as they retain capability, we have to be prepared for it because intent can change. We will maintain troops on the LAC according to that assessment.”
This means that the Army will have enhanced deployment on the disputed Ladakh border till total disengagement by troops at the points of friction and completion of total de-escalation by the two forces.
The Chinese ambassador claimed that disengagement has been completed at most locations, but the Indian side has clarified that disengagement has still not been completed at Patrolling Point 17A and Pangong Tso.
The Army officer said additional deployment of troops in Ladakh, estimated to be around 35,000 soldiers, is directly linked to restoration of status quo ante as of April which remains the Army’s goal, as stated by the Northern Army Commander, Lt General YK Joshi in an interview to CNN-News18.
Restoration of status quo ante involves reduction of additional troops deployed by both sides on the border, removal of new infrastructure constructed in contentious areas and restoration of patrolling rights as exercised before the current standoff began in early May.
“We are prepared for all contingencies. Logistics preparations are underway to support additional deployment in winters, if so required,” the officer said, without getting into details of the exact number of additional troops that will continue to be deployed in Ladakh.
A second officer, however, said that at least one additional division can be expected to stay back in Ladakh to be prepared for any eventuality, but did not rule out greater numbers depending on the situation on the Chinese side. The numbers could be higher this winter, eventually stabilizing to a slightly lower permanent deployment thereafter, the officer said.
The Chinese ambassador’s statement that clarification of the LAC will lead to more disputes also indicates that no solution to the tensions on the border is in the offing, which will warrant a higher degree of alertness by Indian troops.
The Army has been demanding delineation of the LAC by the two sides to avoid faceoffs between soldiers on both sides – these have increased as the Indian side has started patrolling with greater intent and frequency in the last 15 years.
Meanwhile, former Army chief General (retd) VP Malik, in a Twitter post, said: “By his statement yesterday, Ambassador Sun Weidong of China has virtually ended any possible progress in LAC talks between military commanders”.
One of the Army officers, who had a different take, said, “the next round of talks will happen in the next few days, most probably after August 1”.
As reported by The Indian Express, the situation on the ground has not changed in the last two weeks. Chinese soldiers continue to remain deployed east of Finger 4 at Pangong and are blocking Indian patrols from accessing five patrol points in the Depsang Plains. Around 50 soldiers each of both armies are in a standoff at a distance of around a kilometre at PP 17A in Gogra.
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