Updated: June 19, 2021 10:30:41 pm
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria Saturday said there is a proposal to hold talks with China at the Division Commander-level — which is at the Major General rank — but a decision is yet to be taken on it.
Speaking at the graduation parade of the Air Force Academy in Dundigal, Telangana, he said the process of talks with China for disengagement in eastern Ladakh is on but the armed forces are monitoring all activity across the Line of Actual Control.
“The talks are on. The 11th round had taken place,” he said. “(For) the next round of talks there is some activity in terms of, there is a proposal for Div Commander level talks, so those decisions will be taken.”
“The first attempt is to continue with the talks and do the disengagement at the balance friction points, and of course follow it up with de-escalation. However, in parallel, the ground realities are being monitored closely. Whatever is the reality across, in terms of current leftover locations, deployments any changes that is being monitored closely, and whatever actions are required on our part we are taking,” Bhadauria said.
The Indian Express had reported on June 15 that China had suggested that the talks for disengagement from Gogra Post and Hot Springs can happen at the Major General-level, or at the level of the Division Commanders, which is a step down from the unprecedented 11 rounds of talks at the Corps Commander level, led by Lt General-rank officers.
China has made the suggestions at various levels, including during the discussions on the ground through a hotline.
Bhadauria said Saturday that India is monitoring all activity. “What is the ground reality, what are the changes taking place. Whatever actions are required on our part with respect to those changes we are taking.”
“As far as Galwan is concerned, and post-Galwan the disengagement is concerned, all action is on in terms of the talks too. So, on all fronts the action is on,” he said.
In February, after the 9th round of talks India and China had pulled back their troops and armoured columns from an eyeball-to-eyeball situation in the Pangong Tso region, including the ridges on the north banks and the heights of the Kailash Range in the Chushul area.
However, since then in the next two rounds of talks at the Corps Commander level, the last of which took place on April 9, there has not been any further breakthrough. China continues to have a small batch of troops at both, Gogra Post and Hot Springs, on the Indian side of the LAC.
There is no clarity if the talks at the level of Division Commanders, if India agrees to it, will also include discussions on Depsang Plains, where China has been blocking Indian troops access to its five Patrolling Points: PP10, PP11, PP11A, PP12 and PP13.
Depsang Plains is strategically sensitive because it is close to India’s Daulat Beg Oldie post near the Karakoram Pass in the north.
During his address at the graduation parade, Bhadauria also mentioned that the Air Force is “undergoing a monumental transformation” as “rapid infusion of niche technology and combat power in every facet of our operations has never been as intense as it is now”.
“This is primarily because of the unprecedented and rapidly evolving security challenges that we face, coupled with a rising geo-political uncertainty in our neighbourhood and beyond. The last few decades have clearly established the critical role of Air Power in achieving victory in any conflict. It is in this backdrop that IAF’s on-going capability enhancement assumes tremendous significance.”
The Air Chief Marshall said the induction of 36 Rafale aircraft into the Indian Air Force would take place by 2022. “The target is 2022. It is absolutely on target. I mentioned earlier. Except for one or two aircraft, minor delays because of COVID related issues.”
He said that those joining the Air Force “at this juncture” will get to “fly fighters carrying an array of potent standoff precision weapons and connected in networks” and that the “transport and helicopter fleets are equipped with C-17, C-130, ALH, Chinook and Apache aircraft which are state of the art and capable of contributing equally effectively in war” or relief efforts.
Touching upon the push on jointness among the armed forces, Bhadauria stressed that “it is also essential for all of you to bear in mind that as future leaders, you will stand shoulder to shoulder with your comrades in Olive Greens and Whites and prosecute integrated operations” and said: “You will be an integral part of this important transition in the years ahead.”
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