The Ministry of Defence has removed all its monthly report since 2017 from its website after taking down one in August that spoke of China’s “unilateral aggression” in Ladakh, The Indian Express reported on Thursday.
The ministry did not reply to questions asked by the newspaper on the sudden move. However, unidentified officials said the reports will be back soon, likely within October. They said the procedure to share the files publicly was being cleaned up in order to make the reports more “comprehensive” rather than being an updates list from the departments within the defence ministry.
These reports normally do not mention major operations such as the Balakot strike, the Doklam standoff and the India-Pakistan dogfight. Further, no reports before 2017 were available on the website even before their removal.
The report that mentioned Chinese aggression was published in June. “Chinese aggression has been increasing along the LAC and more particularly in Galwan Valley since 5th May, 2020” and “the Chinese side transgressed in the areas of Kugrang Nala, Gogra and the north bank of Pangong Tso lake on 17–18 May, 2020”, the report said.
The report also spoke of the clashes between Indian and Chinese troops in Galwan Vally on June 15 in which 20 Indians and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed. It said that the senior military commanders were holding talks. “While engagement and dialogue at military and diplomatic level are continuing to arrive at mutually acceptable consensus the present standoff is likely to be prolonged,” it said.
The joint report for April and May did not mention anything on the Chinese aggression, but it did point to the crisis along the Line of Actual Control. However, it did not go into specifics.
The reports since August last year had mentioned China four times. They include “India-China Joint Working Group” meeting on August 13-14, 2019, the Indian and People’s Liberation Army joint army exercise conducted from December 7-20, 2019, in Umroi Cantt, Meghalaya; the sighting of a Chinese warship, Jiangwei-Il, in Pakistani waters close to Porbandar on February 5, 2020, and the March 2020 report on the construction of a Bailey bridge by the Border Roads Organisation “to meet strategic requirements and ensure connectivity to 451 villages in Upper Subansiri District bordering China”.
The border standoff
Military heads of both India and China have engaged in several rounds of talks over the last three months after 20 Indian and unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed in violent clashes in Galwan Valley in June. But these talks have so far failed to break the impasse.
On September 22, both the countries had issued a joint statement about the sixth round of Corps Commander-level talks and said they resolved to stop sending more troops to the frontline. The statement added that both sides will refrain from unilaterally changing situation on the Line of Actual Control. The seventh round of Corps Commander talks to work out measures for disengagement and de-escalation is scheduled for October 12.
On September 10, Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit. The two ministers agreed on a five-point plan to defuse tensions between the countries and said the current situation in the border areas of Ladakh was “not in the interest of either side”. This was after skirmishes between the two sides early in September.