14th round of commanders' talks held to resolve Ladakh standoff
New Delhi: The Chief of the Army Staff, Gen. M.M. Naravane, said on Wednesday that while there has been partial disengagement at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Ladakh sector, the threat from China “has by no means reduced”.
He said that Pakistan continues to wage proxy war against India and currently there are 350-400 terrorists in various launchpads across the Line of Control (LoC). Gen. Naravane said the Indian Army was “not averse” to the demilitarisation of the Siachen Glacier, if Pakistan accepts the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) as dividing the two countries’ positions.
Gen. Naravane said the December 4 firing incident in Nagaland’s Mon district in which 14 civilians were killed was “highly regrettable” and that “appropriate action”, as required to uphold the law of the land, would be taken based on the investigation. He said the Army’s Court of Inquiry led by an officer of major-general rank was expected to submit its findings in a day or two.
Speaking on the current standoff with China, the Army Chief said that force levels, in areas where the disengagement with Chinese troops was yet to take place, have been adequately enhanced. “War or conflict is always an instrument of the last resort, but if resorted to, we will come out victorious,” Gen. Naravane said in an online interaction with a group of journalists on the eve of Army Day.
The Army Chief said the Indian Army was well poised all along the border with China “and there is no question that any status quo as it exists today will ever be altered by force”. He said the threat assessments and internal deliberations have resulted in the reorientation of additional forces to the northern borders with China, while retaining punitive strike capability along the western front with Pakistan.
The Army Chief said the situation at the LAC was “stable” and “under control” and there was always hope that through dialogue we will be able to resolve our differences.
Gen. Naravane’s comments came on the day when India and China held the 14th round of corps commanders’ meeting at the Chushul-Moldo meeting point on the Chinese side of the LAC to resolve the standoff in the Hot Springs area in Ladakh.
“The 14th round of talks are underway and it is a good thing that talks are going on… it shows that we can resolve our differences through dialogue and that is why this mechanism is very important,” said Gen Naravane. He underlined how through negotiations the two sides were able to disengage in PP-14, Pangong Tso and Gogra Post. He said once all the current friction points are resolved, talks will be held on issues that “pre-date the current standoff” (Depsang and Demchok).
The Army Chief said the Army’s response to the Chinese attempts to unilaterally change the status quo were very robust and “we were able to thwart this design”. He added: “We are in a position to meet whatever is thrown at us in the future, and of that I can assure you very confidently.”
He said the crisis with China was used as an opportunity to fast-track infrastructure development, undertake doctrinal reviews and make up operational voids through emergency and fast track procurements. “I dare say that in the last year and half our capabilities have increased manifold as far as the northern front is concerned.”
The Chief said that ceasefire violations at Line of Control with Pakistan have come down drastically after the two sides last year agreed to adhere to earlier ceasefire agreements. However, he said Pakistan continues to wage a proxy war against India. “Combined intelligence inputs suggest as many as 350 to 400 terrorists on the other side, at the launchpads or in various training camps. This threat has in no way receded. We have to remain alert and to that extent a threat from the western front is also very much there and cannot be ignored,” said the Army Chief.
On demilitarisation of the Siachen Glacier, Gen. Naravane said that this situation occurred because of unilateral attempts by Pakistan to change the status quo. “The LoC had been delineated to a point which is known as NJ 9842 and thereafter there was understanding that it remains unoccupied. But since they made an attempt to occupy it we were also forced to take our countermeasures and now both sides are face to face all along the Siachen Glacier,” he added. He said the Army was not against demilitarisation of the Siachen Glacier but a precondition of that was to accept the AGPL, that is the actual ground position line. “Pakistan has to accept what are their positions and accept what are our positions. And both of us have to sign on the dotted line before any kind of disengagement takes place,” he said.
The Army Chief said preparations are already underway at the National Defence Academy to induct women cadets there from June 2022.