SOURCE: THE PRINT
With China not confirming dates for a fresh round of corps commander talks, India is not taking anything to chance and is being “extra sensitive” along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as well as the western sector bordering Pakistan, ThePrint has learnt.
Sources in the defence and security establishment said the situation at the LAC remains tense after at least four rounds of firing between India and China.
While two rounds of firing took place at the southern banks of the Pangong Tso on 29 and 31 August — amid new rules of engagement as reported earlier — sources said another two rounds of warning shots were fired at the northern banks of the lake after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh met his Chinese counterpart on 4 September in Russia.
The Army has so far confirmed only one round of warning shots at the southern bank of Pangong Tso on the intervening night of 29-30 August.
On Wednesday, South China Morning Post reported that China had raised its combat readiness to the second-highest possible last week after an exchange of gunfire, but the alert was lowered after a meeting of both the foreign ministers. The increase to second level meant deployment of more weapons and troops at the front line, and ramping up of training exercises for commanders, officers and soldiers, said the report.
Amid these developments, sources said the worry is China’s delay to give dates for the talks that were agreed upon by both sides in principle, and were supposed to be held in the early days of the ongoing week.
This indicates that either China is still firming up the agenda for talks or is calibrating a response to India’s pre-emptive action on the intervening night of 29-30 August.
“The Corps Commander talks have been agreed upon in principle by China. However, they are yet to come back with confirmed dates. As per the earlier plan, the talks were to be held in the first part of this week at the most,” a source said.
The terms of engagement for the next round of corps commander talks will forgo the earlier concept of “equitable disengagement”, and will take into account the changed dynamics on the ground, which will give India better bargaining power.
‘China no longer in driving seat’
A second source explained that a lot of things have happened since the last round of corps commander talks on 2 August.
“The fact is that China is no longer in the driving seat. They have occupied an area in the northern banks claimed by both sides and now we have done the same in the southern banks. Even in the northern banks, troop deployment has been readjusted and hence we are at a dominating position than the Chinese who are at the ridgeline of Finger 4,” the source said.
Asked what China’s delay in confirming the dates meant, the source said, “They are obviously thinking what to do and how to go about with it. We are anyway operationally deployed all along the LoC but we are being extra sensitive.”
Precautionary deployment has been made to prevent China from transgressing into any new area, whether in Ladakh or any other part of the LAC which runs all the way up to the Northeast, added the source.
It was reported earlier that the Army, Navy and the Air Force have been put on operational alert. Troops have been “dynamically deployed” all along the LAC to prevent any attempt by the Chinese to open another front elsewhere.
Sources had earlier said that ever since the Indians dominated the heights in the southern banks of Pangong Tso, spread over 50 km, the Chinese have been trying to push them out.
“It is a sensitive situation. Indian soldiers continue to hold their positions. It is not a literal face-off since the troops are not standing face to face. However, the situation remains sensitive as the Chinese have made multiple attempts,” a source had earlier said.
In an interview with ThePrint this week, former 14 Corps Commander Lt Gen P.J.S. Pannu (retd) said China has misread India’s resolve to challenge its land-grabbing tactics and the probability of a military clash was high unless China finds itself an exit strategy.