Even as high level talks were going on between the top military officials India and China, the Indian Army chief has stated that force deployment from the Indian side has been enhanced. Responding to media queries during the annual presser ahead of the Army Day (January 15), the Indian Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said that the threat on the northern borders has not been reduced, though there has been a partial disengagement.
In what was his last media interaction as an Army Chief, he responded by stating that “While ensuring the sanctity of our claims, the Indian Army will deal with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)in a resolute, firm and peaceful manner. All necessary safeguards are in place.”
According to him, in the last one year there have been positive developments, both along India’s Northern and Western Borders. Indian Army has maintained the highest levels of operational preparedness along the Northern Border, and also engaged in sustained dialogue with the Chinese PLA.
Expressing hope that the outcome of the 14th round of talks will yield positive results, the Army Chief said that after continuous efforts from both sides, there has been a mutual dis-engagement at many locations.
Expectation from the 14th round
According to Gen Naravane, “Resolving Patrolling Point 15 (Hot Spring). And, once that is done then other issues which predate the standoff will be considered.”
What positive development?
The two sides have engaged in several rounds of talks and this is being viewed as a positive step.
“We have to talk to each other, that’s a good thing. At the end of 4th and 5th round of talks the issues resolved included PP 14. Then at the end of 9th and 10th round North and South Bank and Kailash ranges, followed by PP17.”
Enhanced force levels in areas from where dis-engagement has not taken place yet. Keeping with the Army’s mandate there have been internal deliberations which have resulted in re-alignment as well as re-organisation of forces. And also ensuring India’s territorial integrity, military infrastructure – all this to take care of the growing number of PLA forces.
Upgradation & Infrastructure
The Indian Army is developing infrastructure in the region in a holistic manner along the Northern borders. As part of the infrastructure development, strategic railway lines, roads and tunnels for all weather connectivity, additional bridges are coming up across the Brahmaputra.
Also, work is going on for up-gradation of bridges on critical, Indo-China Border Roads, fuel and ammunition and storage for supplies.
India & Pakistan
According to the chief, the situation along the Line of Control (LOC) with Pakistan, has witnessed a marked improvement. This is after the DGMOs of both sides had a talk in February last year which was focussed on achieving mutually beneficial sustainable peace.
However, he added, “There has been an increase in repeated infiltration attempts, and there is concentration of terrorists in launch pads, across the LC.”
Indian army has resolved to show “Zero Tolerance’’ to terror.
Demilitarising Siachen – Only if Pakistan meets pre-conditions
To another question, the chief told the media that a decision can be taken only after Pakistan accepts Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) — dividing the two countries’ positions.
What more did the chief say about this?
He said the militarisation of the Siachen happened because the Pakistan side in 1984, tried unilaterally to alter the Status Quo.
And this forced India to adopt counter measures.
According to the chief, “The LOC at that time had been delineated to — NJ 9842. There was an understanding that it would remain unoccupied.”
However, Pakistan made an attempt to occupy territory, and since then forces from both sides have been face to face along the Siachen Glacier.
Adding, “Acceptance of AGPL is the first stage towards demilitarisation. Then each of the sides has to sign on dotted lines, before disengagement takes place.”
Compared to the situation in eastern Ladakh?
There one has to first disengage. Then it will be followed by de-induction or de-escalation… in other words demilitarisation.